Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales has criticised new powers that will give Communities Secretary Eric Pickles the right to veto local authority private landlord licensing schemes.
Newham was the first local authority in England to regulate the private rented sector and has licensed all its 35,000 rental properties.
It was introduced two years ago with the aim of reducing exploitation of tenants after a number of “beds-in-sheds” scandals. The borough has a high number of immigrants and 40% of its housing stock is privately rented which makes it vulnerable to rogue landlords.
But now the Government wants to restrict the growing trend for councils to impose such schemes by introducing a consultation obligation.
From 1 April, any council looking to introduce a licensing scheme covering more than 20% of their area, or 20% of privately rented homes, will need to obtain permission from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Sir Robin Wales said: “These overly bureaucratic measures from the government will strangle councils’ ability to tailor licensing schemes to local needs.
“Local authorities and residents are in the best position to determine whether a property licensing scheme is needed for their area, not Whitehall. Strong evidence is already required to introduce borough-wide licensing so this is redundant legislation, creating more hoops for local authorities to jump through.
“Good landlords have nothing to fear from private rented sector licensing. Our focus has always been ensuring tenants are living in safe conditions that they are secure in their legal rights and the borough’s streets are not blighted with anti-social behaviour.”
Critics of the scheme argue that the sector has become increasingly regulated and “professionalised” through estate agents while private landlords who may be renting out their home for a short period effectively stump up for another “tax” costing hundreds of pounds a year.
More than two dozen landlords have fallen foul of the scheme, failing the “fit and proper” test while 1,000 are on special monitoring licences. The council has also taken 472 prosecutions against private landlords with the highest fine so far reaching £30,000.