As reliance on the private rented sector to house London’s communities increases, and given the well-known issues of condition and management in parts of the sector, it is unsurprising that a growing number of boroughs are looking to licensing schemes to address these challenges.
Our workshop on 16th September invited boroughs to discuss PRS licensing schemes – how they fit with a borough’s wider PRS housing strategy, and with the myriad changes to housing policy at a national level. It was also the opportunity to comment on Future of London’s draft performance indicators for evaluating PRS licensing schemes, which we have developed as part of our wider work on PRS licensing.
Rhona Brown, Senior Policy Officer at the GLA, updated on City Hall’s requests to government in relation to PRS, including making tenancy deposit protection data available to LAs and the public to improve intelligence on landlords; devolving selective licensing approval powers to City Hall; measures to professionalise the lettings agents sector; additional funding to boroughs for enforcement work, and amendments to the Right to Rent scheme.
Richard Tacagni, Managing Director of London Property Licensing, talked about the importance of boroughs utilising their enforcement powers – whether they are running discretionary licensing schemes or not. Enforcement should be targeted and intelligence-led to maximise benefit. He also talked about the importance of regulating lettings agencies, which have been legally required to join one of three redress schemes since October 2014.
In the discussion that followed, a number of officers stated that licensing schemes facilitated increasing enforcement action against poor landlords, in comparison to the long-winded and overly bureaucratic Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) process. In justifying the need for schemes that license more Houses in Multiple Occcupation (HMOs) than those covered by the mandatory scheme, concerns were also raised around section 257 HMOs in London. These are buildings which have been converted into self-contained flats but do not comply with current building standards, and are rife in London.
The workshop then moved to a breakout session in which participants discussed the performance indicators Future of London is developing. Overall, it was agreed that standardising the way boroughs evaluate licensing schemes would be helpful, whilst at the same time acknowledging that boroughs may have different priorities for what they want a scheme to achieve. This was a reminder of the importance of having clear objectives from the start of the process.
Since the workshop, the indicators have been refined. Over the coming months, we will be working with a number of boroughs to help them evaluate their licensing schemes, including Camden, Southwark and Barking & Dagenham. For more information on the evaluation project, contact Jo Wilson.