Islington Council has unveiled two measures to help private renters - a proposal for extra landlord licensing along Holloway Road and Caledonian Road, and a new council-run lettings agency to give tenants a better deal and to begin bringing down rents.
The proposed landlord licensing scheme would cover an estimated 3,500 tenants living in homes along the entire length of Holloway Road and Caledonian Road, which surveys have indicated are hotspots for poor management.
Earlier this year, after concerns about poorly managed houses and flats along the two streets, council officers surveyed 208 HMOs.
Of the 208 properties, council officers found 141 had problems linked to poor management, including dirty communal areas, mice infestations, use of undersized “box rooms” and various other breaches of HMO management regulations.
Significant hazards were also found, including poorly maintained fire alarm systems, dangerous staircases and neglected electrical systems.
The council is now proposing to introduce licensing for all landlords of HMOs along Holloway Road and Caledonian Road. Licensing will enable the council to ensure that these HMOs are properly managed, in a reasonable condition, and meet minimum standards.
Landlords who fail to license risk prosecution and fines up to £20,000, and being required to repay up to 12 months' rent for letting a property which should have been licensed but wasn't.
Consultation on the proposal will begin next week, with a final decision to be taken at a future meeting of the council's executive.
Also, last night the executive approved the setting up of a new social lettings agency to be run by the council from next spring.
Many people, especially on middle and low incomes, are unable to rent privately in Islington, or forced to accept poor quality homes.
The social lettings agency will charge tenants no fees, as well as guaranteeing standards.
And in what is thought to be a first, the council will offer landlords guaranteed rents in exchange for them bringing down rents, so that they are affordable for people hit by housing benefit caps.
Cllr James Murray, Islington's executive member for housing and development, said: "More and more people in Islington are renting privately and we want to help make sure they get decent homes that they can afford.
"Our proposal for extra landlord licensing along the whole of Holloway Road and Caledonian Road comes after widespread evidence of poor management, including serious issues around electrical safety, fire alarms and landlords letting out tiny ‘shoebox’ flats.
"Alongside this, our new council-run lettings agency will offer a better deal for private tenants. There will be no fees for tenants and a management service from the council.
"We’ll also be using our position to effectively control rents in part of the private rented sector, so that they’re affordable to people who would otherwise be unable to stay in Islington because of the government’s benefit caps."
Other council initiatives to help private renters include a one-shop phone number - 020 7527 3001 - for all issues, inquiries and concerns relating to private rental.