The first local authority in England bringing in blanket licensing of all private rental properties within its boundaries is unable to say how many prosecutions it has brought against landlords over the last five years.
The Residential Landlords Association made a Freedom of Information request, and described the response from Newham Council in London as ‘pitiful’.
The RLA said it was staggered that the authority, which requires all private rental property to be licensed by January 1, did not have the information to hand.
Newham insists that it is bringing in blanket licensing because it has identified problems of poor property and tenancy management.
The council said it was unable to “… provide accurate historical reports on the number of prosecutions against landlords for the last five years”.
It went on to blame “a change in recording procedures last year and a change in computerised systems for reporting purposes” for its failure to provide the figures. It said that to produce the figures would require an officer to manually interrogate all files.
Newham could only produce figures for 2011/12. These show that the council prosecuted 31 landlords.
The RLA has repeated its call for the council to abandon its plans for blanket licensing, and to use existing legislation to actively pursue and prosecute criminal landlords.
Licences applied for now will cost £150 and last five years. After January 1, the cost will rise to £500.
Licensing would usually be the responsibility of the landlord, but could also fall into the remit of the managing agent. Failure to license could mean fines of up to £20,000, and the council could seek a rent repayment order for up to 12 months of rental income. It will also not be possible to use the S.21 procedure for possession if a property has not been licensed.
Shelter has called on all other local authorities to follow Newham Council’s lead.