Havering landlords to face extra licence fees in crackdown on poor quality homes

Thousands of private Havering landlords will have to pay hundreds of pounds more to the council next year as it tries to crack down on poor-quality housing.

A report prepared for the cabinet last week (October 14) shows a quarter of the more than 30,000 privately rented homes in Havering have “serious hazards” that put tenants at risk.

It is estimated there are around 600 seriously hazardous properties being rented in the Romford Town area alone. The average rent in the borough is £550 per month for a room.

The report also states that nearly half the borough’s 1,312 houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs), where more than one household shares the property, may have serious hazards.

In an effort to deter cost-cutting landlords, from January 25 next year, all privately rented homes in Romford Town and Brooklands will need a £900 “selective” licence.

Smaller HMOs with three or four tenants in six wards will also need a £900 “additional” licence.

The wards where landlords will need new licences from January 25 are Cranham, Emerson Park, Hacton, Hylands, St Andrews and Upminster. 

Smaller HMOs in the borough’s remaining 12 wards have needed additional licences since 2017.

Responses to the plans varied between those who did not feel they were harsh enough and those, largely landlords, who felt they were too punishing.

One consultation response submitted to the council reads: “If landlords have to pay, they may take more care of the property and have better control of those they rent to.”

Another said the proposals were “not strong enough”, adding: “Romford… will be a dump town in 10 years unless something is done to clip the wings of these buy-to-let sharks invading our community.”

However, another person argued: “Havering is using this purely for income generation. There will be no appropriate supervision and unscrupulous landlords will not change through this and will not even register.”

Another wrote: “More expense to owners means less supply of property and pressure to put up rents both due to shortage and costs.”

In response to points raised during consultation, Havering Council said there was “no evidence” the supply of rental properties would reduce, pointing out the fees were far lower than the costs associated with the sale of a property.

The response continues: “There is no evidence that licensing fees have directly resulted in higher rents, in areas which have licensing schemes. 

“We have established that landlords set rents based on market rates which are determined by tenant affordability.

“The fees proposed only cover the cost of processing and administration of the scheme. 

“There can be no profit made from licensing, however the council is keen to introduce licensing in a cost neutral way so the private rented sector is not subsidised by council tax payers.”

Landlords could purchase the “selective” licence for just £450 if they paid before October 12, according to the report, but the schemes were only approved by cabinet on October 14.

Licences for small HMOs in the other twelve wards of the borough were introduced in October 2017 but only 10 per cent of landlords complied.

Since March 2018, the council has reclaimed £304,250 from landlords that failed to license or let tenants live in poor housing conditions.

The housing service receives more than 400 complaints from private tenants each year, with peak demand during colder months. 

Redbridge is now the only borough in north east London that does not have a selective licensing scheme.

Wards covered by the new selective licence

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter