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Additional Licensing Scheme Consultation Launches

Westminster City Council launches consultation on an additional licensing scheme for multi-occupant homes, enforcing standards and protecting private renters in shared properties.

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Published: 19 November 2020

The proposed Additional Licensing Scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) will focus on the 9000+ properties in the City of Westminster where private renters live in multi-occupant homes - including flat shares, bedsits, and buildings converted into flats.  

The scheme open for consultation, billed as part of the council’s wider ‘private rented sector strategy’, will seek to increase the local authority’s ability to fully license HMOs in the centre of London. Providing clear minimum standards for properties and a stronger line of support for private renters living in the sector.  

Under current national laws, the council can only license 300 of the estimated 9000+ HMOs in Westminster. The new proposed scheme will increase this number significantly and drastically improve the local-authorities ability to enforce essential housing standards and protect residents. A recent study found that poor housing standards are far more likely to be found in the HMO sector, with the council having to make 25,341 interventions between 2016 and 2018. The new policy will seek to set a common standard for landlords across the borough, hauling up standards and supporting residents.  

Primary aims of the proposed scheme include: 

  • Driving up housing standards for HMOs across the city, establishing a common standard and drastically increasing interventions in priorities affected by poor tenancy management, the need for repairs, fire safety hazard, and anti-social behaviour, 
  • Protecting private rented tenants and vulnerable ground from the negative social and health effects of poorly managed and maintained properties, and reducing inequality of housing. 
  • Creating sustainable private rented sector tenancies that are attractive to good tenants. 
  • Making Westminster a safer and more desirable place to live by reducing the instances of poor tenancy management.  

Cllr Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Public Protection & Licensing said: 

“The safety and livelihood of our residents and communities is always at the peak of priorities for the council, and now more than ever, ensuring that Westminster has a high-quality provision of housing in the private rented sector is imperative.  

“With this additional licensing scheme for homes of multiple occupancies, we will be able to significantly increase our reach over this specific part of the sector, driving up standards across the board and ensuring that private tenants in the area are living in shared properties that are well managed and maintained and, most importantly, and safe and secure.”  

The City of Westminster is home to the largest private rented sector in England with an estimated 52,700 properties and 43% of the total housing stock. With a large proportion of these properties marked as HMOs, the council has published a proposed licensing scheme to ensure that Westminster has a safe, well-managed, and professional-run private rented sector. 

Proposals to consult on an additional HMO licensing scheme were widely supported by respondents to the ongoing private rented sector consultation in Autumn 2020, with almost 70% in agreement. The council is now asking for feedback and input on the proposed additional policy before a decision is made on whether to implement in the new year.  

The consultation details can be found online here and will be open until February 2021.