Mayor launches Property Licence Checker
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is standing up for the safety and wellbeing of London’s private renters by launching a new online tool to help them discover if their landlord has properly licensed their home. Some tenants could be owed thousands of pounds in rent repayments if their landlord has failed to obtain the correct licence.
Property licensing is an important tool that boroughs can use to enforce decent standards in the private rented sector, and for landlords to demonstrate that their property is suitable for occupation and managed to an acceptable standard. However, with a patchwork of different property licensing schemes in place for different types of privately rented housing in different London boroughs, it can be difficult for tenants to know if their landlord has secured the correct licence. The Mayor’s new Property Licence Checker will help renters find out whether their home needs a licence and, if so, will direct them to the relevant borough to check whether a licence is in place.
If the landlord does not hold the correct property licence, they may be subject to enforcement action from the local council, but the implications for renters are also significant: Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices are invalidated and they may be entitled to a Rent Repayment Order requiring a landlord to pay back up to 12 months’ rent. The current average rent in London is around £1,425 per month, meaning a year’s worth of repaid rent would come to more than £17,000.
The Checker will empower renters and also provide valuable intelligence to help boroughs target their enforcement against rogue landlords – especially those who have failed to register licences for larger houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), where some of the poorest property conditions are found in London.
Despite having no formal powers over the private rented sector, the Mayor is determined to advocate for London’s 2.6 million private renters. The Checker was developed in collaboration with the Mayor’s Private Rented Sector Partnership with London boroughs and builds on the success of the Mayor’s Rogue Landlord and Agent checker which was launched in 2017. Licensing is a key tool in ensuring landlords are providing at least basic levels of comfort, safety and facilities in their properties – the most recent English Housing Survey found 18 per cent of private rented accommodation in London fails to meet these basic standards.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “With nearly a fifth of London’s private rented accommodation not meeting basic standards, it is vital that every privately rented property is licensed so landlords can be held to account for the conditions their tenants live in.
“My new Property Licence Checker is a key part of my work to redress the imbalance of power that currently exists in the London private rented sector. London’s renters deserve to live in safe, secure, comfortable accommodation, whilst councils need the tools to deal with rogue operators.
“That’s why I’m calling on the Government to give City Hall the power to consider and approve new licensing schemes in London. This would help create more consistency in property licensing across London, creating a more transparent system for landlords and better protections for London’s private renters, who time and again are treated as an afterthought by ministers.”
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said: “This will be an extremely useful ‘check and challenge’ tool to empower tenants and support boroughs in our crackdown on rogue landlords.
“In the face of weak regulation set at a national level, London boroughs are pleased to be working with the GLA to push up standards in the capital’s private rented sector. Boroughs are committed to taking robust action against rogue landlords exploiting their tenants, and we’ll continue to call for stronger enforcement powers and resources for our frontline teams.”
Dan Wilson Craw, Deputy Director of Generation Rent, said: “We estimate that as many as one in eight private renters in London lives in a property that is not properly licensed. That makes you more vulnerable to unsafe conditions and mistreatment. The rewards for tenants taking unlicensed landlords to court are substantial, but local government must do more to inform tenants of their rights and encourage them to take action.
“That is why Generation Rent has been calling for online tools for tenants to check their home’s licence status, and we are delighted that the Mayor is rolling this out for London. We hope more councils and city regions follow the Mayor’s lead in their fight against criminal landlords.”
Roz Spencer from Safer Renting said: “Although property licensing is a national requirement, each borough has variations in its schemes. So, it is crucial for renters to know if their landlord requires a license or not. No license means you can potentially claim back 12 months’ worth of rent.
“We would recommend checking whether property needs and has a license before taking on a tenancy. Would you want to be renting from a landlord who is avoiding their responsibilities?
“As with the Mayor’s “Check a Landlord” portal, this is another significant tool to empower London’s renters that those outside the capital don’t have.”