Despite the objections raised in Newham Council’s open forums and the media, most of us who work in the industry knew that once the council had announced it provisionally, this was always going to happen. “Rogue” landlords are a serious issue yet there are already laws and council/governmental departments in place to cover the majority of the issues Newham hope to combat with licensing.
Many people consider the move to be an opportunistic “cash grab” by the council, simply another arrow (alongside parking enforcement) in the council’s already bulging revenue generation quiver. They may be right, the current lack of licensing proves little hindrance to the councils ability to operate at present, when they need to contact us they’ve always been able to. Several clients have queried what they’re actually subsidising. Aside from reciting the council’s rhetoric, we’ve yet to be able to provide a substantive answer to the persisting question “what are they going to use the money for”? So far the answers have been vague so, we’re assuming it’s all for the physical copy of the license, given the cost this will doubtlessly be carved into marble and inlaid with gold (there must be tons of it lying around after the olympics?)
While the idea of licensed landlords is highly appealing to consumers, the assumed protection this provides is non-existent. “Licensed” is a loaded word, it implies that the holder has somehow been vetted or proven their ability in whatever is written on the certificate. Most of the people I know in the industry are unsure whether Newham will take any steps to vet landlords beyond whether or not they’ve registered. There’s a not insignificant amount of landlords who are “up to something” who won’t register, and these people need to do things above board or stop altogether. Sadly little thought seemed to have been given to the potential size of the market they represent and what happens to their tenants if they’re all forced to stop at the same time. Also, that’s generally acting more in the interest of the taxman than the tenants, some landlords are only fiducially dodgy.
Little has been released by Newham Council about how this will actually benefit tenants. A community/social element relating to anti-social behaviour has been bolted on to the scheme, but seems to have little to no impact on the way these issues are currently resolved. At best it would seem it will provide a contact list for the council’s already existing departments to utilise. Strong arguments have been made that the licensing will have little to no impact, other than potentially increasing rents as landlords look to recoup an unforeseen expense from tenants – the law of economics obviously dictates that costs incurred by the supplier are passed on to the consumer.
Regardless of your thoughts on the matter it’s being put into place in 2013 and will be mandatory. If you register by the end of December 2012 your five year license will be issued at a discounted rate of £150, after this period it will rise to £500, failure to secure a license will result in a £20000 fine.
We had hoped to be in a position to explain the application process in a bit more detail, sadly we’ve been unable to resolve an issue with Newham’s online portal that’s preventing us from registering. We’ll update this post at a later date when we’ve made some progress, currently we would advise the following:
Have a look at Newham’s licensing: