Tackling Rogue Landlords

Meeting: 
MQT on 2016-11-16
Session date: 
November 16, 2016
Reference: 
2016/4051
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Organisation: 
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

What steps are you taking to improve the condition of homes in London's private rented sector?

Answer

Answer for Tackling Rogue Landlords

Answer for Tackling Rogue Landlords

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for the question.  Can I also just congratulate you on the report?

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  As I said to you - I have written to you - this is a very useful piece of research which highlights the great efforts that many local authorities are making to ensure that decent conditions are both encouraged and, where necessary, enforced in the private rented sector.

 

Although most renters live in homes that are in good repair and most landlords act responsibly, I am well aware that for too many people this is not the case.  Too many households, especially amongst the most vulnerable, endure what can be shockingly poor standards of housing from the minority of landlords who let their tenants down.

 

I share the views set out in your report that better enforcement action against landlords who are letting their tenants down is vital.  I do not believe that voluntary measures will, on their own, help tackle the problem of poor standards in some private rented housing.  The previous Mayor’s London Rental Standard, for instance, set out to accredit 100,000 landlords but in reality accredited fewer than 2,000 new landlords.

 

The most effective tool for improving conditions in the private rented sector is property licensing.  It provides a simple framework against which local authorities can take enforcement action, with licence fees to help finance the scheme.  I support your view that local authorities should be allowed to introduce licensing schemes as they see fit, providing they are properly enforced and the fees charged are reasonable.

 

I have already written to Redbridge in support of their proposal for a selective licensing scheme, and I am strongly in favour of Newham’s proposal to renew their piloting of a borough-wide selective licensing scheme.

 

You will appreciate that in law my powers in this area are very limited and responsibility rests mainly with London’s boroughs.  Nevertheless, I want to take a much stronger role than my predecessor.  I have made the case to Government Ministers for the Mayor being given a new responsibility for agreeing borough licensing schemes in London.  At present, this responsibility rests with the Secretary of State, but it should in my view be a role for the London Mayor as part of a wider, much‑needed devolution settlement.

 

Further to this, my officers are working with the Government to ensure the regulations of the Housing and Planning Act and the extension of mandatory houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing are implemented in such a way as to give maximum resources and powers to local authorities.  I should add that I am keen to see the development of a more responsible and secure and high-quality rented housing sector in London, designed and funded for long‑term use by responsible financial institutions such as pension funds.

 

There is a lot more but I know you have questions and so I will cut my answer.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Yes, you have taken almost half my time.  I am pleased to hear that.  One of my questions was: would you be lobbying the Government to take over the granting of borough-wide licensing?  I think that is great because then we can start to look for a London-wide licensing scheme which ultimately, I think, is where we need to be and to protect all those private tenants.

 

If I could perhaps pick up a couple of issues.  You have mentioned the report I have done, a survey of local authority enforcement, which shows some councils inspecting one in ten properties; some are one in around 600.  You said very specifically you want to play a leadership role in improving the private rented sector.

 

I am wondering.  Will you host a summit here at City Hall to bring London’s boroughs together to share best practice?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We already speak to councils all the time, not just London Councils but James Murray [Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development] spends a lot of time speaking to housing leads as well.  I am happy to raise it with him in terms of whether a summit would help.  It is really important we extend the best practice.  Your report was very good and not just the league tables; what different councils are doing was interesting for me.  Some of it is for very good reasons of resources; some of it because of the demographics of the area.  I am happy to ask James to look at your suggestion.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  It would be really helpful, given around a third of private rented homes do not meet Decent Homes Standard.  To try to share that best practice would be helpful.

 

The other issue I wanted to raise is around prosecutions.  There is a huge variation in terms of prosecuting private landlords where illegal living conditions are discovered.  Will you perhaps look at producing a legal toolkit, again to help the boroughs so they can take quick action against rogue landlords?  They have such slim resources at boroughs so if they are just given that additional help and pointers we might see more prosecutions.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the things that we are going to do is to help councils get licences.  At the moment, there is quite a laborious process to go through the Secretary of State.  Redbridge, for example, has been refused a licence to cover the entire borough is going back with 79% of the borough.

 

The Government at the moment does not seem keen to devolve that to the Mayor and London.  However, I am going to support councils as I have been doing, but I am conscious though of not stepping on their toes.  There are some Assembly Members who are councillors here and I am conscious of the fact that you are autonomous to some extent.

 

I am happy to help if there are things I can be doing to help councils.  I am more than happy to help.  Newham has been fantastic.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Yes, absolutely.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Newham, for example, provided advice and assistance to other local authorities around London as well.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Using places like Newham to use their experience, to share best practice, to also look at developing that sort of legal toolkit to help boroughs, I think, would be a strategic role you could play which would complement the boroughs, not take them over.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes, sure, but I am always conscious about providing toolkits that are not asked for or used, particularly bearing in mind the resources it costs.  I will make sure that Deputy Mayor James Murray is speaking to housing leads and local authorities across London in relation to what assistance we could possibly be giving, bearing in mind our convening role.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Would you in the longer term like to see a London‑wide licensing scheme?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes.  I do not want to take over the councils already doing them, but if we can provide a network across London, that would be great.  I do not want to duplicate and waste resources but I want all of London covered, is the basic aspiration.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I take it you will be supporting Newham, which is facing the real prospect that it may not get the whole borough licence renewed, even though it has been so successful.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes, so I am happy to support Newham in its renewal.  As you know, it is 100% covered at the moment and it would be odd if the Government was not to extend that.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you very much.

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you very much.