Waltham Forest’s property licensing scheme gets the green light

18 July 2019
Waltham Forest Town Hall

Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet has committed to introducing another selective licensing scheme and will soon make a formal application to government to ratify the scheme. ​At the same cabinet meeting it was also agreed to designate the whole borough as an additional HMO licensing area. Both schemes are set to come into force on 1 April 2020, on expiry of the Council’s existing selective licensing scheme.

With more than one in three of the borough’s residents now renting in the private sector, the pioneering licensing schemes approved by councillors will mean that most privately rented homes will need to hold a licence in order to be legally let. Landlords will also need to comply with a set of licence conditions relating to the safety and proper management of rented homes in Waltham Forest

The decisions at Cabinet follows on from extensive consultation with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies on two proposals:

  • a selective licensing designation covering 18 of the borough’s wards, but excluding Hatch Lane and Endlebury;
  • a borough wide additional licensing designation.

Cabinet heard how more than 50 per cent of residents/tenants agreed with the council’s proposal to reintroduce selective licensing. In addition to this, more than 50 per cent of respondents said there would be a negative impact on anti-social behaviour and the condition and management of privately rented properties in the borough when the current scheme ended, without a new scheme in place.

Overall, almost 60 per cent of respondents agreed with the council’s proposal to introduce additional licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) across the borough to regulate property conditions.

The existing borough wide selective licensing scheme for privately rented property came into force on 1 April 2015.

Since then the Council has made some decisive interventions to safeguard the comfort and safety of tenants. The Council has undertaken a range of strong actions as part of the enforcement of the licensing scheme:

  • issued over 100 Civil Penalties,
  • issued more than 40 interim management orders,
  • improved 3,000 privately rented properties
  • pursued 94 successful prosecutions, resulting in more than £300,000 in court-imposed fines.

The selective licensing scheme comes to an end in March 2020 and the Council must now apply to government to continue to protect tenants and support good landlords for another five-year period. 

The scheme commands widespread support from residents, housing charities, parliamentarians and the Mayor of London.

Following Cabinet, Councillor Louise Mitchell and Deputy Leader Clyde Loakes, called on the housing minister to act decisively to protect vulnerable individuals and families living in private rented properties by supporting Waltham Forest in its successful approach by determining its submission for a new scheme quickly.

Councillor Louise Mitchell, Lead Member for Housing and Homelessness Prevention, said: “We have been at the forefront of protecting our residents living in the private rented sector by using our licensing scheme to effectively drive up standards. Licensing has the wide spread backing of key stakeholders who have seen first hand the difference it can make to the lives of residents.”

“While we have made tremendous progress in the last few years, there is still more work to do. With more of our residents now renting privately, it is so vitally  important that we have the powers to tackle non-compliant landlords, who pay no regard to the rules and exploit vulnerable tenants by letting out overcrowded, unsuitable and dangerous properties.”

“It would be entirely wrong and a backward step for private renters rights if government was to deny us the right to continue with this effective scheme which tackles criminal landlords and protects vulnerable individuals and families within the private rented sector.”