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News: Agents advised to check clients' licenses after council website blunder

Mon, 13 Aug 18

Agents and landlords are being advised to check the status of their HMO licenses in the London Borough of Harrow following a blunder by the local authority.

The independent housing consultancy London Property Licensing has identified what it calls “a serious compliance risk” for landlords and their agents who handle HMOs in the borough. 

The issue revolves around an additional licensing scheme that came into force in March 2016 and continues until February 2021; London Property Licensing says that whereas the council’s previous additional licensing scheme was restricted to HMOs of two or more storeys and occupied by four or more people, the new scheme includes all HMOs occupied by three or more people. 

However, Harrow council’s website inaccurately gave guidance saying the scheme was restricted to HMOs occupied by four or more people - this was the case up to the start of this month, well over two years after the scheme started. 

The council has now corrected the website following an approach by London Property Licensing but the consultancy says the blunder nonetheless represents a significant risk for agents and landlords. 

“If the landlord or managing agent of a three-person HMO has not applied for an additional licence, they may inadvertently be committing a criminal offence. This could result in prosecution and a hefty fine or a civil penalty of up to £30,000. The tenants may be able to reclaim up to 12 months rent by way of a Rent Repayment Order and any section 21 notice of seeking possession would be invalid” it says.

“Alternatively, if the property is within one of the three selective licensing schemes, the landlord of a three-person HMO may have instead applied for a selective licence. That would be the wrong type of licence for the property and it cannot be transferred. The licence would need to be revoked and a new additional licence application submitted.”


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