What can you do if your landlord doesn’t have a property licence? We asked questions to Private Sector Housing Enforcement team at Southwark Council. Here are the top questions and answers on how the Council can help.
Where do I check if my property has a license?
You can check on the council’s website here
What do I do if the landlord doesn’t have a licence?
If the landlord dosn’t have a licence, the tenant(s) can notify the Council’s Private Sector Enforcement team. This can be done via the Council’s webform here
I live a property which is in good condition. My relationship with my landlord is very good and they have given me all the right certificates and tenancy documents. I am very happy with my property, tenancy and my landlord. I know that my landlord doesn’t have a property licence. Is the landlord in trouble?
It would depend what type of license the property needs.
If the property needs a mandatory HMO license, the Council will likely refer this case for a CPN (Civil Penalty Notice). This is because mandatory HMO licensing is the law. Remember, this is because 5 or more sharers from different households pose a lot greater health & safety risk.
If the property only needs a selective or an additional HMO licence, the Council will write to the landlord and explain how to make an application.
Read about HMOs, types of licences and how to count households in our previous article here
I live in a property which is in bad condition, it needs some repairs. The landlord has also not given me any or all of the necessary health & safety certificates and/or tenancy documents. I am not happy with the standard of the property, my tenancy or the landlord. I know that the landlord doesn’t have a property license. Is the landlord in trouble?
As mentioned above, this would depend on the licence needed. However, because the landlord has failed to maintain the property, the case is more serious. The Council may prosecute the landlord or serve CPN (Civil Penalty Notice).
They will also deal with any health & safety hazards by serving notices to the landlord. The notices are part 1 of the Housing Act 2004.
Southwark Council also has the powers to request the landlord to address the disrepair issues by serving an improvement notice. The landlord will then have to prove to the Council that they are in the process of making the damage good or have made the repairs.
I live in a property which needs a lot of repairs. The landlord has also not given me any or all of the necessary health & safety certificates and/or tenancy documents. The landlord doesn’t seem to care to address any of the issues. I know that the landlord doesn’t have a property license. Is the landlord in trouble?
As per the Q&A above, The Council will likely prosecute and fine the landlord. Furthermore, the Council will also serve any necessary Housing Act 2004 notices to deal with the hazards appropriately.
If the property has a Category 1 hazard, the Council may carry out emergency remedial action. They may also serve an emergency prohibition order (EPO) to the landlord. Category 1 hazard means that the property poses an ‘imminent risk of serious harm’ to the tenants. If the Council serves an EPO, this means the property or part of the property cannot be occupied. This order takes immediate effect. The Council will refer the tenants to the Housing Solutions Service for assessment.
I have notified the Council that my landlord doesn’t have a license. The Council has made the landlord apply for the license but has otherwise found no wrongdoing. I think that the property is not in a good state. I disagree with the Council and think the property is not up to standard. What should I do?
If you disagree with the Council’s decision, you could file a complaint here. You can also call the complaints team on 020 7525 0042.
The Council will then review your complaint and will determine if the Council has made an error in their initial decision. If the Council still deems that their initial decision was correct, you can then raise the complaint with Housing Ombudsman here
Please note, that in order for you to raise the complaint with Housing Ombudsman, you must first make a complaint to the Council and allow them to review your complaint first. If you are unsatisfied with The Council’s review and decision, you can only then make a further claim with the Housing Ombudsman. Do not skip these steps because the ombudsman will ask for proof that you have followed the procedure before turning to them for help.
What powers does the Council have to prosecute the landlord who doesn’t have a property licence? Can the Council make the landlord carry out all the necessary work where applicable?
Before you make complaints to the Council about your property’s disrepair issues, you must notify your landlord first. This is because you must allow the landlord to respond and remedy the problems. It may be that the landlord themselves are not aware of the problems but are happy to address them.
Only if the landlord:
- does not respond
- claim that there are no problems
- fail to remedy them in a timely manner,
you can then contact the Council . You must follow these steps first because the Council will only investigate complaints of disrepair if a tenant has already contacted the landlord about it and the landlord has failed to action.
The Council has a duty to deal with Category 1 hazards. Category 1 hazards mean that the property can cause a serious harm to the tenant, for example, death, permanent paralysis, permanent loss of consciousness, loss of a limb or serious fractures.
With Category 2 hazards, Council only has a policy to deal with these, not a duty. Category 2 hazards are less serious or less urgent and are often about issues such as damp and mould, fire precautions or similar.
An officer can serve an enforcement notice that is appropriate to the hazards.
What are the most common notices?
There are several notices that the Council can serve. The most common notices are:
- Improvement notices – these notices mean that the landlord must carry out improvements on the property. In these cases, the Council must give at least 28 days to the landlord to start the works. Depending on the scale of works, the deadlines may vary on a case-by-case basis.
- Prohibition orders – these orders restrict or prohibit the use of a premises or part of a premises. For example, the order can prohibit a room from being used or restrict the number of people in a room. The orders take effect in 28 days.
What if the Council serves my landlord with a notice/order but they still fail to do the necessary?
Failure to comply with the requirements of a notice may result in the issue of a civil penalty notice (CPN) or a prosecution.
The Council can fine the landlord by issuing a civil penalty notice. This is in accordance with Section 249(a) of amended Housing Act 2004, this and can be issued for the following breaches:
- Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice
- Failure to license or other licensing offences relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
- Failure to licence orother licensing offences under the Council‘s Selective Licensing Scheme ·Failure to comply with an Overcrowding NoticeFailure to comply with a management regulation in respect of an HMO
- Breaching a Banning Order.
The fine can be reduced if the landlord completed required works in the time between the Council issuing a “notice of intent” to serve a CPN and the “final notice” to serve a CPN.
If the landlord is successfully prosecuted, the landlord will highly likely have to pay a fine. The fines are decided and imposed by the courts.
How much time does the Council give to the landlord to make things good?
Most formal notices legally require at least 28 days for works to start. The council will then decide, on a case-by-case basis, on the final deadline for works.
This is because for some remedial works can be easily carried out within 28 days, while other, bigger works may take longer. As long as the landlord can prove that they are taking pro-active steps to remedy the issue, the Council will allow time for the landlord to do the necessary.
Has the Council issued many fines and how common are they?
The Council regularly prosecutes landlords. Fines are issued by the courts.
CPNs are still fairly new concept to the private housing enforcement team. However, in this financial year, the team has issued 27 notices of intent to issue a financial penalty. A total of 6 final CPNs have been issued and the number is rising.
What Council team do I contact if my property has severe disrepair issues and the landlord has failed to do anything about them (irrelevant if the property needs a licence or not)?
*Please note that the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Team only deals with tenants who rent their home privately. If you are a Council tenant or a housing association tenant, please do not contact this team as they won’t be able to help you and your request may not be forwarded to an alternative team.
If The Council deems that the property is in severe disrepair, they will issue the landlord with a legal notice (as discussed above). The notices have schedules of work within them that, in the Council’s opinion, would remedy the hazard.
Failure to comply with the notice would likely result in a prosecution or a CPN.
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