Enforcement squads going after unlicensed properties
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Housing, Legal
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Enforcement squads are prowling a London borough's streets for unlicensed rental properties - with criminal landlords facing fines of up to £20,000 per dwelling.
Newham Council has become the first local authority in the country to implement a scheme to license all private rental properties.
Since January 1, 27,000 landlords have applied for a license.
Officers and police have already visited 100 properties, with the first 20 prosecutions against rogue landlords already on the way to court.
The council says it is determined to weed out criminal landlords who put tenants at risk.
It has the capacity to prosecute more than 500 rogue landlords over the next 12 months, which it claims would be more housing enforcement than the whole of the rest of the UK put together.
Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: "We want to ensure that private sector rented properties are well managed and meet a good standard. We also want to deal with the crime and anti-social behaviour that is associated with bad private sector rented housing.
"There are good landlords in Newham and we want to work with them. Unfortunately there are also some unscrupulous ones - and we are going after them vigorously and robustly.
"We will never accept private sector tenants being directly exploited by landlords who force them to live in dangerous and unacceptable conditions. One bad house can drag down a whole street.
"It is clear from our consultation that our residents, including tenants in private sector homes, massively back our plans.
"This scheme shows that Newham is leading the country when it comes to tackling bad landlords who flout the law.
"Good landlords have nothing to fear from this scheme. For the bad ones, this a clear message they must clean up their act - or pay the price.
"One bad house can drag down a whole street. We are doing this for the community."
The council consulted with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies about the scheme, and found 74 percent of residents and 76 percent of private tenants supported it.
The scheme is backed by housing charity Shelter and other councils are considering following Newham's lead.
Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: "We are delighted to hear that Newham Council has introduced this scheme, which will help protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords who are making their tenants' lives hell.
"With a chronic shortage of social housing and more and more people being priced out of the housing market, renting is fast becoming the only option for thousands more Londoners. Our advice service for tenants in Newham sees people every day who are suffering at the hands of rogue landlords who are ignoring their responsibilities and wreaking havoc on tenants' lives.
"We urge other local councils to follow Newham's lead in sending a clear signal that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority."