If you live or work in Hammersmith & Fulham or Haringey, please scroll down and click-thru to contribute a response to the local consultation on property licensing? With an effective enforcement regime behind it, licensing works to make many more privately rented homes safe to live in. Landlords’ complaints about the cost of a property licence are unfounded. A property licence is a legitimate business expense. The cost can be offset against tax liability. A licence is actually cost neutral for all those good landlords who pay tax on rental income, then.
But to describe the relatively better forms of landlordism as in any way ‘good’ is a mistake, Tom Lavin asserts. His analogy: it is preferable to have £5 stolen from you than £50 but you would not describe the theft of £5 as being a ‘good theft’.
Our friends at Greater Manchester Housing Action have published Lavin’s demolition of ‘the good landlord’ and his case for a ‘people’s rented sector’ as a pamphlet. People who receive news from Renters’ Rights London via email had the chance to claim a free copy. Although you’ve missed out on that, The Myth of the ‘Good Landlord’ why landlordism is inherently exploitative is on sale through the GMHA website
How to challenge a proposed rent increase
In February of this year, Oriana and her partner, Ty, entered into a six month tenancy. At the time they signed the agreement, the property owner told them that, unless there was a major problem, they could renew. True to her word, the landlord has now written to Oriana and Ty with the offer of a new tenancy agreement. But the landlord is proposing a new rent. It’s £240 per month higher than the couple has been paying! This represents a rent increase of 30%, overnight.
Some reports state that London rents increased by 0.61% in Q1 of this year. Other reports state that the average London rent has fallen by 2.3% since 2016. But a rent increase of 30% is so extraordinary that Oriana felt sure it must be illegal and contacted Renters’ Rights London.
It is immoral but it’s not illegal, sadly. Because their first tenancy was just six months long, this new agreement represents the start of a new tenancy and the landlord can ask whatever she likes. But this landlord cannot force Oriana and Ty to sign a new agreement. The landlord cannot force them to leave without following the legal eviction process, either. And that process normally starts with a two month notice period.
If the landlord is unwilling to negotiate on the rent, our advice is not to sign the new agreement but to stay on and to keep paying rent at the usual rate. The tenancy then becomes a periodic tenancy, running from month to month.
It’s possible that this landlord will serve a “section 13 notice” on Oriana and Ty, proposing a new rent. Under section 13 of the Housing Act 1988, after a fixed term ends and becomes a periodic tenancy, a landlord can raise the rent once in any 12 month period, by completing and serving a prescribed form (Form 4).
If this were to happen, Oriana and Ty could challenge the proposed rent increase through the First Tier Tribunal (also known as the Property Chamber). They would have to act fast and lodge their application before the start date of the proposed new rent.
The First Tier Tribunal considers the tenants’ application and decides what rent the landlord could expect if the tenancy were offered to the market on the same terms. The tribunal can order that the rent remains unchanged or is increased by a different amount, or even reduced.
If Oriana and Ty were to move quickly enough to challenge a section 13 notice at Tribunal, their rent would remain the same as before until the Tribunal had made a decision. But if Oriana and Ty receive a section 13 notice and do nothing, the new, higher rent is understood to have been agreed. Then, the new rent is payable from the beginning of the next rental period.
So, please don’t feel pressured into moving out or signing a new agreement if the terms are unfavourable. Especially not now, when London rents are not increasing fast at all.
Hammersmith and Fulham
The law of the land states that all privately rented homes shared by five or more people who are not all members of one family should be licensed by the local council unless they are in purpose built blocks with more than three flats. Many London councils have more extensive licensing regimes in place, though. Because Hammersmith & Fulham Council understands how property licensing helps to ensure that basic standards of safety are met, the council would like to
- continue to licence all HMOs that are not covered by the Mandatory scheme (those in purpose built blocks) under Additional HMO licensing
- introduce a new Selective licensing scheme, covering any rented house or flat with an address in one of 23 roads
The new Selective scheme would cover
|Askew Road||Goldhawk Road||Shepherd’s Bush Road|
|Baron’s Court Road||Greyhound Road||Sinclair Road|
|Bloemfontein Road||King Street||Talgarth Road|
|Blythe Road||Lime Grove||Uxbridge Road|
|Coningham Road||New King’s Road||Wandsworth Bridge Road|
|Dalling Road||North End Road||Wood Lane|
|Dawes Road||Richmond Way||Woodstock Grove|
|Fulham Road||Scrubs Lane|
If you agree that this is a good idea, do please let the council know? You can submit a response to their consultation anytime until 10 August 2021.
Have your say on property licensing in Hammersmith & Fulham
After careful evidence-gathering and research, Haringey Council is now proposing an appropriately-ambitious licensing scheme, covering 14 wards within the borough. All privately rented homes in the area would need a licence to be let legally.
To introduce licensing at this scale, the council must make the case to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). If the Secretary of State agrees the scheme for Haringey, we hope it will be introduced in 2022.
Obviously, any licensing scheme is only as effective as the enforcement regime in operation around it. The fact of a property licence gives renters some peace of mind, though. They know that they are renting a safe home. Property licensing drives up standards, too. It reminds landlords of their legal obligation to maintain decent conditions, free from hazard and with no more tenants than appropriate for the size of the property.
If you live or work in Haringey, or close to the borders, where there’s lots of rented property, learn more about the scheme and contribute a response to the consultation
If you rent in Southwark, Renters’ Rights London would love to hear from you this Summer. Southwark Council has asked us to find out more about the issues faced by renters around the area. Hopefully, we can help to resolve any problems, too. We really want to hear from as many people as possible so if you live in Southwark, please get in touch
The Council is looking into supporting establishment of a renters’ mutual support network. The aim is to empower everyone in the local private rented sector with the knowledge and capacity to address housing matters. If you don’t live in Southwark but know renters around Bermondsey, the Borough, Camberwell, Crystal Palace, East or West Dulwich, Honor Oak, Kennington, Nunhead, Peckham, Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays or Walworth (aka ‘Elephant & Castle’), we’d love to hear from them so do please pass the message on?
If email is inconvenient, you (or they) can leave a voicemail on the office number 020 3826 4783, anytime. Otherwise, you can call (0930h-1745h from Monday to Friday) or send text to the Renters’ Rights London mobile number 07936 906480.