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New landlord licensing scheme planned for Seven Sisters Road and Finsbury Park

Labour group make election pledge to bring in new licensing system for rental-market properties

30 March, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Town Hall housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward

LANDLORDS in Seven Sisters Road and Finsbury Park could be forced to take part in a new licensing system aimed at making sure private rental-market properties are up to scratch.

They will have to pay for a licence if they have homes shared by three or more people, with requirements to provide details of tenancy agreements, property layouts and gas, electrical and fire safety.

The policy pledge is part of a manifesto released by the ruling Labour group on Sunday, ahead of the May 3 council elections. It comes amid concern over a lack of well-maintained properties on the private market.

If landlords don’t comply, enforcement action could be taken.

A licensing system already covers 3,500 private renters in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road. It was introduced in 2015 after the council warned that it had found there were too many poorly-managed properties in the neighbourhood. Chris Norris, director of policy at the National Landlord Association, questioned how many extra properties the new council scheme would cover. A similar national initiative currently requires landlords to obtain licences for properties with three storeys and above which have at least five people – the storey element will be dropped from October.

“Because schemes are really quite costly to administer I would question how worthwhile an exercise it is,” he said. “I suppose if they ran the [national] extended mandatory scheme and found there was a very large proportion of properties [outside of the national scheme] they had concerns about then there might be justification for doing it. We will want to see there’s a justification for doing it.”

Town Hall housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said: “Islington has got a lot of housing converted into flats. Very often they are three- or four-bed properties.”

He said that widely-shared publicity and the council’s landlords forum would ensure confusion was not an issue.

While the fees fund the scheme, there are additional costs such as administration, processing applications and enforcement, which would be paid for separately by the council.

Cllr Ward said he would look to the government for grants.

In 2016, a Holloway Road landlord was ordered to repay almost £40,000 in housing benefit while letting unlicensed flats.

“More and more people are privately renting as that’s the only option,” said Cllr Ward. “Council and social housing are in very short supply and it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy.

“Private renters deserve decent homes. It will offer peace of mind as to fire safety and making sure accom­modation is fit to live in.”

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