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Lewisham Council is set to introduce a borough-wide licensing scheme in a bid to crack down on rogue buy to let investors who ‘rip off tenants’.
The scheme is aimed at private rental property in ‘high risk’ areas, where a link is noted between anti-social behavior and crime. The idea is expected to go to mayor and cabinet for approval at some point in the autumn.
A council spokeswoman said: ‘We will apply for a borough-wide licensing scheme which will protect Lewisham renters from rogue landlords who let unsafe properties, attempt to rip off their tenants or use their properties to commit fraud and other crimes.’
The introduction of the scheme follows the council implementing stricter regulations than national guidelines for multiple-occupancy rentals situated above shops each year. The national licensing guidelines, which are set to change in October, require that landlords apply for a license to rent buildings at least three storeys high and those with five or more tenants who are not from one household who also share kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities.
However, Lewisham Council opted to extend the regulations, making landlords seek licensing to let multiple-occupant rentals above shops. By October, the Government is also set to include all multiple-occupancy rentals with five or more unrelated tenants in the licensing scheme, as opposed to just those above three storeys high.
According to estimates from Lewisham Council, an extra 400 properties would need licensing. The council has already managed to identify about 90 properties that would need additional licensing.
The new rules will also involve the setting of minimum size requirements for bedrooms. This will mean that local councils are able to make sure that only rooms meeting the standards can be used for sleeping.
However, the National Approved Letting Scheme has issued a warning that increasing costs and a complicated licensing scheme has the potential to force landlords from the private rented sector. They conducted research which showed licensing fees for a three-storey multiple occupancy building with five unrelated occupants can range from £125 (City of London Corporation) to £2,500 (Lewisham Council), a serious financial burden for landlords.