Hackney landlords given extra time to apply for licences following confusion over new scheme

The woman stands in the hallway of the HMO looking at the hole left by sewage which caused the ceili

The woman stands in the hallway of the HMO looking at the hole left by sewage which caused the ceiling to collapse. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

So many landlords have been stumped by details surrounding new licensing requirements brought in by Hackney Council that they’ve been given another two months to apply for them.

Property owners renting out homes in the three most problem-hit areas of the borough were told earlier this year they would need to get a licence or face a potential fine of £30,000 – or even prosecution. So too were all owners of the borough’s 4,000 HMOs.

But the idea of paying £500 for a five-year licence did not go down well – and many said they were completely unaware of what requirements were needed to avoid penalties.

One landlord has told the Gazette the system has been “a mess”, and the town hall has confirmed that due to the number of queries put in, a many had yet to obtain their licences.

The deadline has now been extended until the end of February, from the start of December.

Hackney’s mayoral advisor for private renting Cllr Sem Moema said: “Our new measures are a vital step in creating a better system for renters in Hackney by ensuring those most likely to experience hazards and poor treatment get the protection they deserve.

“But as well as tackling rogue landlords we have always supported good landlords, and this extension will give those who provide a professional service the time to have their questions answered and gather the information they need to get licensed.”

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The problems came to light days before the scheme went live in October, when landlord Vishal Vora told the Gazette he had stumbled upon the scheme by chance after a conversation with an old neighbour.

He said landlords had received a lack of information about the details of the scheme, and many were worried they would be fined or hauled before courts.

“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,” he said.

The scheme is part of Hackney’s Better Renting campaign aiming to crack down on rogue landlords. The town hall reckons 15 per cent of the 4,700 private rented homes in Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington wards have serious problems including damp, dangerous boilers, and vermin.