0:01 AM, 9th February 2024, About 3 weeks ago 5
A landlord has expressed his worries about the possible problems that tenants could cause for him and other landlords with properties in selective licensing areas, due to councils delaying renewing their licenses.
The landlord, who wished to remain anonymous, owns an HMO (house in multiple occupation) in a London borough that requires a license to operate.
He applied for a renewal of his five-year license a year ago, but the council has not issued him a new one yet.
He told Property118: “I supplied all the necessary information and paid the fees. Since that moment, the council concerned still has not provided the new license stating that they ‘have a backlog’ and not enough people and resources to renew the license.”
He added that he has contacted the council several times, but he always gets the same response.
He now fears that a tenant might notice the expired license and create issues for him, such as withholding rent or demanding compensation.
The landlord said: “I am concerned that there will be a bad tenant who at some point will see the license – now expired – and make issues.
“I am taken aback because whatever I as a landlord need to supply to the council – they as standard state ‘within five business days otherwise a fine of £30,000 will be levied’ which I find disproportionately heavy-handed and quite impolite and unprofessional.”
He also wonders what his legal position is in this situation.
He said: “I have kept email records and have chased the council regularly every couple of months.”
According to the government website, landlords who operate an HMO or a property in a selective licensing area must have a valid license from the local council.
Failing to do so can result in prosecution and unlimited fines.
The website also states that landlords who have applied for a license and are waiting for the council’s decision are allowed to continue to let their property, if they have proof of their application.
However, the website does not specify how long the council can take to process the license applications, or what the landlords can do if the council fails to issue the license within a reasonable time.
Landlords who rent out properties that require a selective or HMO licence are at risk of being fined by councils for not having a licence, even if they have applied for one.
This is according to Phil Turtle, a director of Landlord Licensing & Defence, and he warns that the penalties for not having a licence are ‘draconian’.
He says these are criminal offences, but a landlord is protected from prosecution if they have ‘duly made’ an application for a licence.
Mr Turtle said: “Unfortunately, councils will rarely confirm that an application is duly made so it falls to the landlord or their licensing application company such as Landlord Licensing & Defence to keep records that demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the application has been duly made.
“It is not unknown for councils to claim that an application was not duly made so that they can help themselves to a £15,000+ fine.”
He advises landlords to keep records that prove that they have duly made an application, and to inform their tenants of this fact to prevent tenants from trying to claim back their rent or stop paying it, as the property is licensed as long as an application has been duly made.
Mr Turtle also criticised councils for being ‘incompetent’ at issuing licences, and for misusing the legislation to exploit landlords who are not supposed to be a ‘cash cow for councils’.
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