Lewisham council is consulting on introducing new additional HMO and selective licensing schemes.
At present Lewisham operates the mandatory and an additional HMO licensing scheme within its borough. Lewisham is now proposing introducing two further schemes which will operate in tandem with the existing schemes.
The proposal is to introduce a new additional HMO licensing scheme which will see all HMO rental properties needing a licence. This means houses or flats with 3 or more people sharing amenities who are not part of the same family will need a licence under this scheme.
In addition, Lewisham is also proposing a selective licence scheme which will see all other rental properties not already covered by the other schemes needing a licence. This means that even houses and flats rented to a single family, of whatever size, will need licensing. However, Lewisham is not permitted to introduce this scheme without the permission of the Secretary of State.
The consultation closes on 20 August 2019. Given the timetable set by the Council it is possible that the additional scheme may come into force in the later part of this year. However, the selective scheme, because it requires Secretary of State permission, is unlikely to come into force until early 2020 at least.
As we have said previously a number of local authorities are now pursuing licensing schemes and it seems likely that this move by Lewisham will just be the start of the widespread introduction of licensing schemes. Unfortunately, as things stand, when these schemes are introduced the law only requires a council to advertise the designation in two newspapers that circulate locally and to write to any contributors to the consultation as well as to local stakeholders. This means that there is a significant risk that a number of landlords, especially those that do not use local agents to manage their properties, will be unaware of these schemes, making themselves liable for prosecution or a civil penalty of up to £30,000. It is therefore important that those managing properties are regularly checking local council websites and newspapers to ensure that they are aware of any developments in the private rental market.