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‘Unsuspecting’ landlords caught out by £45,000 local council fines

landlord licences buy-to-let
landlord licences buy-to-let

Unsuspecting landlords have been fined up to £45,000 for failing to have the correct licences, new figures have shown.

Landlords of “houses in multiple occupation”, those with five or more tenants, are required to have a licence – the cost of which can vary between local authorities.

Failure to obtain this can result in landlords being fined and being forced to repay rent to tenants. London landlords have been ordered to pay up to £45,000 for failing to have an HMO licence, according to council data obtained via a freedom of information request lodged by The Telegraph.

Landlords were typically fined £10,000-15,000. In one borough 40 fines were issued, totalling £172,000. In the City of Westminster, five landlords were handed criminal convictions, the FOIs showed.

It is estimated hundreds of landlords have been fined for failing to have the correct licences across London.

Theresa Wallace, of the Lettings Industry Council, a trade body, said licencing schemes were inconsistent across local authorities and accused councils of “trying to catch landlords out”. She added: “The objective of the licencing scheme is not being met – which was to improve property standards. Just because you have a licence, it doesn’t mean your property is safe to live in.”

Since October 2021, six fines have been issued to London landlords, ranging between £1,250 and £4,000, for not having an HMO licence for a property with fewer than five bedrooms. This was after some local authorities introduced additional HMO requirements in the past two years.

Ms Wallace said most landlords and letting agents falling foul of licencing regulations were simply naive or caught unawares by tenants who had moved another person into a property.

She said: “We don’t have enough landlords and we have lost a lot of them from the sector. Scaring them out is not helping the industry. I don’t think the scheme is very well publicised. Why would anyone think to look on their local authority website? Anybody could be caught out by pure naivety.”

She said additional HMO licences would be rolled out by more local authorities, which will in turn generate more profit for local councils.

A spokesman for Lewisham Council, which brought in the requirement in April 2022, said the council was “currently preparing a large number of Community Protection Notices for failure to licence pertaining to that scheme, which is not yet reflected in the council’s figures.”

Elsewhere the council had issued 19 fines to landlords worth £77,135 in total – eight for failure to obtain a licence and 11 for breaches to licence conditions.