A flagship London Labour Council licensing scheme for private landlords was facing collapse this week as a series of legal mistakes forced Hammersmith and Fulham to slash the number of properties covered. In a Leader’s Urgency Decision by Cllr Stephen Cowan published on 1 February, the Council revoked the designation of 44 streets out of 172 within weeks of issuing the formal legal notices, admitting having used “erroneous data” to choose the streets it covered.
And opposition and residents are calling for the whole scheme to be dropped.
Hammersmith and Fulham’s Labour Cabinet passed the Selective Licensing scheme for private sector landlords at a Cabinet Meeting on 2 November 2016. The Scheme originally included some 172 streets, allegedly chosen because antisocial behaviour in those streets was “attributable to occupiers of privately rented properties”. It would have required all landlord in those streets to register with the Council and pay a licence fee of £500. However, the list included:
Two entire streets of Council-owned properties (Charlow Close and Watermeadow Lane) which have been empty for years and are scheduled for demolition.
A street where all but one of the houses have been demolished, leaving one house which is not privately rented at all (Gorleston Street).
A number of streets of properties owned by Housing Associations, which are not subject to selective licensing (Gwyn Close, Mandela Close, St John’s Close).
A street where the only residents are two Catholic priests and a school caretaker (Commonwealth Avenue).
It later emerged many of the 172 streets had simply been chosen because they included pubs with high crime levels – rather than the crime being anything to do with rental properties. The Urgency Decision refers to the pubs as “commercial outlets”.
National landlord organisations argue Selective Licensing schemes simply push up rents for private sector tenants, as landlords seek to recover the costs from their tenants. The Hammersmith license fees are amongst the highest in the country.
The scheme is already in meltdown, and there isn’t a scrap of evidence the remaining streets have high levels of crime caused by rental properties. It’s just another Labour stealth tax, and a tax that will be paid by tenants.