Wednesday 3 August 2022

Barnet Housing - In Barnet the problem is not lack of licensing schemes, it's lack of enforcement

 Barnet Council are trumpeting a new licensing scheme for HMO's on their website.

It says

Councillor Ross Houston, Chair of the Housing & Growth Committee, said: “It is important that we keep housing in the private rented sector at a high standard. Safety is paramount. Our Officers work diligently to ensure high standards, which will benefit tenants, good landlords and our community. These new measures will also help further reduce anti-social behaviour that can sometimes be associated with HMOs, and that can only be a good thing for everybody.”

‘Additional licensing’, which requires HMOs across the borough to be licenced, was previously introduced in Barnet in 2016 and expired in July 2021. Following a review of the previous scheme and undertaking a public consultation a new scheme will run for a further five years, to begin on Thursday 27 October 2022. To find out the licensing rules and regulations that currently apply to HMOs in the borough and to view the Public Notice visit: Landlords are strongly encouraged to submit their applications early to avoid the risk of enforcement action.

This is all well and good, but in Barnet the problem is not lack of rules and schemes. It is lack of enforcement. This doesn't just apply to HMO's, it applies to planning permission, environmental control, building control and enforcement and licensing in general. The problem is that enforcement needs real staff, who are prepared to go out and collect evidence. It can't be done by clicking a button on a website and letting 'Computer say yes' which is the current mantra of Barnet Council. Launching enforcement is also costly. However the situation is currently that no one expects rules to be enforced so they ignore them and know they can get away with it. Once you start enforcing, the dodgy practices stop so in the long run things improve and it all becomes cheaper. 

This is all very well and good but until we start to see Barnet Council employing more staff to do real jobs in enforcement, this means absolutely nothing in the real world.

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