Hackney Council warns rogue landlords they have 'nowhere to hide' after licensing scheme finally rolled out
PUBLISHED: 10:56 25 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:56 25 October 2019
Rogue landlords in the three most problem-hit areas of Hackney have been warned they have nowhere to hide after the council launched a crackdown on poor conditions.
Owners of the 4,000 plus private-rented homes in Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington wards now have to apply for licences. They were chosen because one-in-five renters in those areas suffering from cold homes, disrepair, damp and mould.
The new powers were announced last year, along with additional licensing requirements for landlords of all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the borough, but a legal challenge from a landlord held up the rollout.
The scheme was eventually approved at the cabinet meeting last week and enforcement has now begun.
Landlords are being charged £500 for a five-year licence, or £425 for those that are accredited. The cash will pay for additional enforcement officers, with the licensing team doubling in size.
Those who don't get licensed or fail to comply with the conditions will face fixed penalties of up to £30,000, a prosecution with unlimited fine, or be forced to pay tenants back up to a year's rent. Serious offenders can be banned from letting homes completely and placed on a rogue landlords database.
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Cllr Sem Moema, mayoral adviser for private renting, said: "For too long rogue landlords have been able to get away with exploiting a lack of regulation to profit from letting out homes in unacceptable condition.
"Our measures are addressing this imbalance, giving protection to thousands of renters who, by paying exorbitant rents just for somewhere to live, are already on the frontline of Hackney's housing crisis.
"Landlords have long known these changes are coming and - with plans to inspect every single property affected - those breaking the law can have no excuses when we issue tough penalties."
Landlords complained last year that they had been given no information about the upcoming scheme, and they were eventually given until the end of February to apply for licences.
One owner, Vishal Vora, said at the time: "There are rogue landlords and there needs to be a mechanism to catch them, but to us it just feels they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. A lot of landlords are worried."
Since the rollout of the additional HMO licensing, affecting another 4,000 properties, the council has prosecuted three landlords, with court dates set for next year.
The measures are part of the Council's #BetterRenting campaign to create a better deal for private renters.