RLA opposes plans to introduce borough-wide licensing in Lewisham
The RLA has opposed plans to introduce a borough-wide licensing scheme in Lewisham.
The London Borough of Lewisham council is currently consulting on plans to introduce both a borough-wide selective licensing scheme, and plans to expand the current additional HMO licensing scheme to cover whole the borough.
If the proposals are approved, all landlords with a rental property in Lewisham will be required to obtain a licence in order to rent this out lawfully. The consultation will close on 20th August 2019.
One of the reasons why Lewisham Council is proposing to introduce licensing is ‘to improve property standards in the private rented sector’.
In the RLA’s response to the consultation on the plans, which you can read here, the association is warning that the proposed licensing scheme will do little to improve housing standards.
This is because the focus of staff becomes processing licences, and prosecutions tend to centre on whether a property is licensed or not, rather than improving property conditions.
Concerns over the fee structure
The RLA also has raised some concerns about the fee structure for this proposed scheme in the consultation response.
As part of the proposed scheme, landlords must pay the entire licence fee upfront-even if a licensing application is still pending.
The RLA considers this would be unlawful, given that a court case in 2018 (Gaskin v Richmond Upon Thames (2018) ruled that licence fees should be split into two parts, the first part being an application fee and the second part being payable once the licence has been granted.
Also, the RLA has pointed out that the fee structure does not offer explanation as to why the licence fee is based on council tax band for each single dwelling property. Instead, a flat fee should be charged for a licence, regardless of what council tax band the property is in.
In the consultation response, the RLA has raised other concerns with the proposals, including around the discretionary conditions and that the council already has enforcement powers granted to them under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, and so should make full use of these powers rather than introducing a licensing scheme on top of these powers.