At its request, the Sub-Committee received a report that provided an update following the implementation of a Cabinet decision on Private Rented Sector (PRS) which has grown rapidly in Havering since 2001. This was attributed to population growth; lower London median rents and new transport infrastructure are factors.
It was noted that Havering introduced additional licensing to cover all Homes of Multiple occupancy (HMOs) in 12 of 18 wards in late 2017 and enforcement of the scheme commenced in March 2018.
The report outlined progress over the last 12 months whereby the Council had successfully implemented the scheme with over 22 multi-agency operations conducted, 108 Financial Penalty Notices issued and 21 Statutory Notices served
Applications for the scheme commenced in January 2018. To date 201 applications have been received, this represents 48% of the predicted population. Income from license applications stands at £173,346.
The Team consists of 6 extra officers over and above the current team. The staffing costs together with on-costs such as legal fees, ICT equipment/software and training, totals an estimated £0.300m. The majority of this has been funded by the income from licensing fees and financial penalty notices totalling £0.210m. Any budget gap will be recuperated over the 5 year life of the project, together with a recent successful funding bid to the Controlling Migration Fund from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The first instalment of £0.190m has been confirmed.
The scheme is proving to be a powerful tool to address a range of issues, including poor housing conditions, ASB and overcrowding. Moreover, a clear correlation has been found between unlicensed HMOs and poor property management and conditions. Intelligence found during investigations are also shared with other council services, including Social Services and Council Tax.
Licensing powers are being used in combination with other council powers to address public health hazards found during property inspections, such as pests and damp and mould.
One of the key objectives of the scheme is to ensure all HMOs are licensed over the 5-year life of the scheme. The initial take-up has been quite low, however as landlords start to understand the consequences of not licensing it is likely that compliance rates will improve. A range of reasons have been uncovered as to why landlords fail to license HMO properties, ranging from a lack of awareness, through to tax fraud (local and national), to non-compliance with other housing and planning legislation.
It’s too early to assess the impact of the scheme; however early indicators are that licensing is an effective tool to tackle criminal landlords and tenants in Havering.
In addition to licensing enforcement, the service is now using all its statutory powers to address serious hazards and disrepair cases, amongst the 97% of PRS properties not covered by the Additional licensing scheme. With the first anniversary fast approaching following a successful first year, it is expected that compliance will reach more than 90% by the end of the 5 year scheme, and those that are not compliance are the subject of robust enforcement action. Further a review of options for licensing schemes in other parts of the borough and single dwelling rented properties has begun.
Members commended officers for the update and progress made so far.