A specialist on licensing schemes is warning that agents and landlords in a London borough could find themselves in breach of the law if they follow advice given by the council’s own staff.
Richard Tacagni, of consultancy London Property Licensing, says that Barking and Dagenham is giving out wrong information.
The council’s two existing licensing schemes both expire on August 31.
While it is implementing a new borough-wide selective licensing scheme on September 1, it has no replacement additional licensing scheme – although it suggests it is planning to.
Tacagni said: “Without an additional licensing scheme in place, all HMOs that fall outside the mandatory HMO licensing scheme criteria will instead need to be licensed under the council’s selective licensing scheme when individual licences expire.”
However, on the two occasions he has phoned the council’s licensing hotline to request advice on what happens when an additional licence expires, he says he has been given wrong advice.
He has been told that smaller HMOs will not need licensing from September 1, and also to wait and see if an additional licensing scheme is introduced before applying.
But Tacagni said: “Following this advice could leave landlords and letting agents in breach of the law with the risk of a criminal prosecution. They could also find themselves unable to issue a Section 21 notice of seeking possession.
“In addition, it could enable the tenants to apply for a Rent Repayment Order for the period between the old licence expiring and a new licence application being submitted.
“To remain compliant, HMO landlords with an additional licence will need to apply for either a mandatory HMO or selective licence depending on the occupancy arrangements.
“Each application needs to be submitted on or before the date that the current licence expires.”
Tacagni says that to coincide with its changes to licensing, Barking and Dagenham has raised fees substantially.
Mandatory HMO licences are up by over a third, to £1,300 for a property with five sharers.
Selective licensing fees have been hiked 78%, from £506 to £900 per property.
Tacagni says this is the highest selective licensing fee in the country, and expected to generate over £16m in fee income over the next five years.
Tacagni said: “It is important that councils provide clear, consistent and accurate information to help landlords and agents correctly interpret local licensing rules.”
The full advice is here: http://bit.ly/2YRBVmv