The London Borough of Bexley is keen to work with residents, landlords and agents to implement a new licensing scheme for the borough.

London is growing fast and as the demand for housing far exceeds the supply, Bexley is actively working to manage the rapid increase in the number of smaller residential properties in the borough being converted into houses in multiple occupation or HMOs.

The Council is planning a new local licensing scheme designed to support tenants, landlords and residents.

The licensing options planned for Bexley would take the form of an 'additional' licensing scheme for smaller HMOs as well as possible 'selective' licensing of privately rented accommodation in a defined area.

The introduction of a licensing scheme will require the condition of a property to comply with specific standards relating to fire safety, provision of amenities as well as space standards.

The licence holder will also be required to be deemed suitable by the local authority.

The scheme would also specify how the landlord should deal with notifications of anti-social behaviour.

Licensing of larger Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs); those that are three or more storeys high, occupied by five or more persons and who form more than one household; has been mandatory in England since 1 April 2006.

The Housing Act 2004 gives individual Councils the power to implement discretionary licensing schemes and a number of Council's across the country have already done so.

In Bexley we have been consulting on two different schemes, additional licensing and selective licensing.

HMO properties can pose challenges, including potential overcrowding, poor management sometimes leading to anti-social behaviour (ASB).

Part II of the Housing Act 2004 gives councils the power to implement an 'additional' licensing scheme for HMOs that fall outside the mandatory HMO licensing scheme (subject to some exemptions).

Extending the Council's licensing powers to include all HMOs will drive up standards and protect tenants and landlords.

Evidence suggests that there has been a significant increase in private landlords sub-dividing properties in some areas of the borough.

The greatest number for HMOs in Bexley is in the postcode area of DA8.

Data has revealed that there is on average 9% more incidents of ASB or nuisance per property in the private rented sector than other tenures. The highest levels incidents are in post code areas SE28 and DA8, with 34% and 23% of properties having problems compared to the borough average of 19%.

The London Borough of Bexley is looking to better regulate properties in these areas in order to protect tenants, landlords and the local community, through the introduction of a selective licensing scheme for private rented properties within the DA8 and SE28 areas.

The consultation period ended on 24 January 2017 and regular Landlords Forum meetings and smaller focus groups have been held to consult with and hear the views of landlords in the borough. A document is available for information outlining the outcomes of the consultation (PDF, 55KB).

Following the feedback gathered during the consultation period and smaller focus groups with landlords Property Licence Conditions have now been produced (PDF, 66KB).

It is proposed that fees for the additional and selective licensing schemes will be as follows:

Mandatory and additional licensing

  • £120 per bedroom during the early bird discount
  • £120 per bedroom for mandatory licence renewals.
  • £200 per bedroom for all other applications
  • £280 per bedroom if the property is identified as unlicensed by the council

Selective licensing

  • £300 during the early bird scheme
  • £500 standard fee
  • £850 fee if the property is identified as an unlicensed by the council

Discounts

There is a £50 licence fee discount for accredited landlords of the schemes approved by the GLA under the London Rental Standard including the following:

  • London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (LLAS)
  • National Landlords Association (NLA)
  • Residential Landlords Association (RLA)
  • Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)

Discount only applies to the total standard, renewal or early bird scheme fee.

The proposed additional and selective licensing schemes will continue to be progressed with work ongoing to develop an online application form followed by testing which will involve a small group of landlords and the creation of an enforcement strategy prior to implementation.