The report provides an outline of the Council’s landlord licensing scheme within the context of private housing in Brent, its financing, impact on landlords and tenants as well as challenges and future strategies.
Spencer Randolph (Head of Private Housing Services, Brent Council) presented the report which outlined the key points on landlord licensing scheme within the context of private housing in Brent, its financing, impact on landlords and tenants as well as challenges. In welcoming the success of the selective licensing scheme, a number of questions were raised in the subsequent discussion, centred mainly on issues with cost, enforcement, standards and liaison with tenants.
Responding to questions on costing, the committee heard that the landlord licensing scheme was bringing in funds sufficient only to cover administrative and staffing costs without generating any profit to the Council. However, officers stated that there was a limit to how much the system could achieve largely due to resource restrictions but also additional costs such as potential enforcement actions on non-licensed properties were not covered by the scheme. Nevertheless, the Council was committed to taking preventative action, work with landlords and avoid the need for enforcement actions. Elaborating on the matter of enforcement, Mr Randolph stated that the Council was able to impose fines and funds were available to support certain enforcement activities. He stated that there was no requirement to inspect properties before a license was granted and other mitigation processes were in place, including significant improvement in carrying out compliance inspections, removal of landlords off the system and imposing GLA database banning orders. Whilst management orders were not the norm, officers noted that periodic inspections were carried out to ensure compliance from landlords.
Discussions moved on with members spotlighting on several operational issues relating to the scheme. Responding to questions on the lack of carrying inspections prior to granting a license, officers stated these were not required and that the Council was reliant on self-declarations made by landlords. However, they stated that health and safety considerations were taken into account with each application, the breach of which could impact on the length of the license. A query also arose with regards to the length of licenses. In response, officers stated that 15% of current applications were processed for 1 year and added that as of 1st October 2018, criteria on the length of licensing was expected to change for mandatory licensing, with any properties housing 5 or more non-related people would require a mandatory license.
Finally, members commented on the Council’s liaison with tenants and estate agents. In terms of tenants, the committee noted that the information available on the Council’s web pages which they felt was insufficient when compared to that for landlords, with no clear guidance available on complaints procedures. Members also commented on the information available on the website, noting the complexity of existing mechanisms of finding out what properties were registered. Acknowledging the committee’s recommendations for review of the contents/accessibility, officers provided assurance that sufficient details were provided, with residents directed to the relevant reporting pages and a “Chatbox” functionality expanded to provide further assistance. Whilst officers admitted that some residents may still be reluctant to engage with the Council, efforts were being put towards involving younger people through community work and liaison with university. Officers admitted that some residents may be reluctant to engage with the Council. In terms of registered properties, officers stated that the list was regularly updated but they would be willing to explore further ways for improvement. In terms of liaison with estate agents and ways to incentivise them to offer more private renting options, the committee heard that the Council was committed to continuously improving the relationship. Assurance was given of the proactive approach which had been adopted by the Housing Management Team, including active liaison and issuing of newsletters to keep estate agents informed of latest developments.
i. That the contents of the Landlord Licensing report be noted
ii. That Housing Management Team reviews content and layout of current landlord licensing webpages, and ensures sufficient level of information and advice is available and accessible to residents