Islington Council has announced proposals for two new property licensing schemes to help secure a fairer deal for private renters in the borough by improving conditions.

The first is a borough-wide scheme licensing houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), requiring landlords who rent out a property occupied by three or more tenants who are not members of the same family (as well as certain converted blocks of flats) to get a licence. The council has found that HMOs have some of Islington’s poorest housing standards with many HMO conversions having inadequate fire safety measures.

The second proposed licensing scheme is a selective licensing scheme for Finsbury Park ward, building on the borough-wide HMO licensing scheme. Finsbury Park ward has the highest number of complaints about private rented property in the borough. Many people in the area are also facing higher levels of deprivation, meaning that they are at greater risk of being taken advantage of by rogue landlords. Council officers have recently found a number of properties in the area with unsafe or unsuitable conditions. For these reasons, the Finsbury Park scheme would also require landlords to obtain a license when they rent out a flat or house occupied by either a single household, or two persons sharing.

The two licensing proposals will allow the council to set minimum standards for property management, including the provision of kitchen and bathroom facilities, room sizes and health and safety (e.g. fire, gas and electrical safety checks). The aim is to protect tenants by ensuring that properties are licensed and kept to an appropriate standard.

At the same time, the proposed licensing schemes benefit responsible landlords by levelling the playing field, ensuring rogue landlords who avoid maintenance are not saving money by renting properties in poor conditions. Accredited landlords will also be offered a discounted application fee. Both schemes are subject to a consultation that runs until 3 November 2019.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, said:

“Everyone has the right to a decent, safe and genuinely affordable home. London’s ongoing housing crisis means that far too many dodgy operators are able to take advantage of people’s desperate need for a home, and are profiting off substandard properties with poor living conditions.

“The council can and does act to protect private renters and we’ve taken significant enforcement action against rogue landlords and dodgy lettings agents recently. Licensing schemes are powerful tools to help us protect private renters and, if agreed, these new schemes will help us to identify and reward good landlords while protecting some of our most marginalised private renters.

“There are a great number of responsible landlords in the borough, and these licensing schemes will help the council to ensure that those conscientious landlords are rewarded, while rogue operators offering poor conditions are more easily identified.”

Cllr Jenny Kay, Islington Council’s Private Renters Champion, said:

“More than a third of people in Islington live in a privately rented home and we are determined to ensure they get a fairer deal.

“As a private renter in London, I have experienced first-hand the difficulties some tenants face. There are many good landlords, but too often people are being forced to accept poor quality and sometimes unsafe living conditions.

“We hope these latest licensing schemes, if implemented, will help to improve conditions in the private rented sector.

“Consulting on these schemes is a small but important step, and we want to go further. We will also keep making representations to the government and working with campaigners to make sure the rights of private renters are protected.

“We are sending a clear message that, when a market is broken, Islington Council will use all its powers to intervene. We expect landlords to keep their properties in a good condition or face serious consequences.”

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