Renters demand better than empty promises from Lewisham Council

Lewisham Council’s proposals for borough-wide licensing of private sector landlords will be the latest empty promise on housing unless they prioritise “big action over big talk”, say Lewisham Liberal Democrats.

The Council is consulting on two new schemes that will extend the licensing requirement to all Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) and then eventually to all private rented properties in the borough, with the latter scheme requiring approval from Secretary of State.

However, Lewisham Council’s record of delivering on its most recent limited expansion of the licensing scheme has been woeful.

Since expanding the additional licencing scheme in February 2017, the Council aimed to licence a further 300 properties a year for the next five years. By March 2018 it had licensed a further 135 properties, with just 69 further properties added by March 2019.

The latest proposals see the Council promising to “inspect 100% of all licenced properties” over the scheme period. With 31,000 private rented homes in the borough, this represents over 120 properties a week for a five-year period. A figure nowhere near its existing rate.

The scheme’s estimated £17.3 million cost is meant to be fully covered by the scheme’s successful collection of licensing fees. If the Council fails to meet its ambitious target of 50% sign up in year one, then it’s overambition could be costly.

Where the council is carrying out inspections they are failing miserably to enforce standards. According to housing campaigners, Generation Rent, 170 Category 1 Hazards were discovered but just 11 improvement notices were issued. Elsewhere, Lewisham have managed to register just two landlords to the London Mayor’s much celebrated Rogue Landlords database.

Lewisham Liberal Democrats have been calling for a borough-wide licensing scheme since October 2016. It will support the scheme’s introduction but is demanding to see a proper implementation plan to ensure that this latest policy announcement isn’t yet more big talk.

A spokesperson for Lewisham Liberal Democrats, said:

“Lewisham Council needs to start prioritising big action over big talk. Residents renting in the borough deserve better and are sick and tired of hearing empty promises made by the Council on housing.

“All the evidence shows that Lewisham is delivering one of the weakest regulatory schemes in London. Rogue landlords are being allowed to hide and, when they are found, are getting away with unsafe properties.

“Proposing policy does not help residents - only implementing policy does. It’s time to start seeing these grand ambitions made a reality”

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