Harrow Council pause ‘licensing implementation process’ following lack of consultation

An additional licensing consultation has been undertaken by Harrow Council, but it would appear that thousands of landlords and agents were not informed.

The council’s existing borough wide additional licensing scheme, which applies to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), ends on 28 February 2021.

Before a replacement licensing scheme can be introduced, there is a requirement to take reasonable steps to consult people who are likely to be affected by the designation. This includes landlords, letting agents, landlord / letting agent associations, local residents and people living in surrounding areas. The consultation must run for at least 10 weeks.

According to the consultation portal on the council’s website, the additional licensing consultation started on 3 September 2020 and ended on 12 November 2020.

However, trade publication, London Property Licensing, was not notified about the consultation and neither was there a press release on the council’s website. Consequently, the website, along with a number of other trade publications, was unable to share details of the consultation with readers, which include letting agents and buy-to-let landlords.

It would appear that other organisations, including the National Residential Landlords Association, were also unaware of the consultation.

Harrow Council’s existing additional licensing scheme has not been without controversy. The licensing scheme consultation in 2015 attracted responses from just one managing agent, two landlords and ten residents.

In August 2018, London Property Licensing issued a warning to landlords after the council’s website incorrectly described their own licensing scheme for over two years. Landlords were told the scheme only applied to properties of two or more storeys occupied by four or more people whereas the scheme applied to all HMOs.

A spokesperson for Harrow Council told London Property Licensing: “While all efforts were taken to consult properly, including contacting all our landlords, advertising through Council media channels, posters and so forth, it is recognised that some gaps inadvertently exist.

“Harrow is committed to working with all parties to ensure any scheme introduced is done so for the right reasons, which we still feel is the case here, but more importantly that it is done right and not rushed through.

“To this end, we take on board the comments made and seek to run a second consultation which addresses these points and ensure all parties mentioned are involved.”

Richard Tacagni, MD, London Property Licensing, commented: “I’m sure many in the lettings industry will welcome Harrow Council’s decision to pause the licensing implementation process and run the consultation again. It is important that all parties have sight to the evidence base and can participate in meaningful consultation on such an important topic.”

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