Southwark has approved a consultation on a borough-wide licensing scheme which could see all landlords in the borough pay for a licence.

According to the council, the move, approved at a virtual cabinet meeting last week, is a bid to crack down on private landlords who provide “unsafe and substandard” accommodation.

It could see landlords pay at least £900 for a licence, and up to £1,310 plus £60 per room above five for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

At the moment, unless the property is a HMO, landlords only need a licence if the property is within small designated areas in the borough.

Introducing the report, Councillor Victoria Mills, cabinet member for finance, performance, and Brexit said: “Southwark Council believes that every resident should have a warm, dry and safe place to call home and is firmly committed to driving up standards in the private rented sector which now makes up a third of the housing in our borough.

“To underline our commitment that everyone should have a good quality home no matter who their landlord is, we are seeking to renew and expand our existing housing licensing schemes.”

There are nearly 43,000 private rental sector properties in Southwark – a third of all housing stock – and three types of licensing that can apply to it, including mandatory, additional, and selective.

HMOs that have five or more people from at least two separate households are required to be licensed under mandatory licensing.

Additional licensing gives councils the power to license HMOs that are not covered by mandatory licensing, and selective licensing gives local authorities powers to license properties that are not covered by either mandatory or additional.

Southwark is proposing to renew and update its licensing schemes, which come to an end on December 31 of this year, and the changes could mean that all landlords in the borough will have to pay a licence fee.

Exemptions would include properties converted into flats, those let by the council, holiday lets, those with business tenancies, night shelters, and temporary accommodation for people suffering a mental health disorder or recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.

Fees for mandatory licensing would be split into two payments, the first £580 plus £30 per room above five to process the application and, if successful, another £730 plus £30 per room above five to cover “enforcement of the licence”.

Under additional licensing proposals, all HMOs not subject to mandatory licensing will also require a licence. The same exemptions would apply.

Fees for these properties would involve an application fee of £550 and enforcement fee of £700.

It is proposed that all private rented sector properties not included in the mandatory scheme, or in the proposed additional licensing schemes, will be included in the selective licensing scheme if they are located in a designated area.

However, one of the proposed options going to consultation covers all wards in the borough.

The first proposed option covers 15 wards, including Camberwell Green, Chaucer, Faraday, Goose Green, London Bridge and West Bermondsey, North Bermondsey, North Walworth, Nunhead and Queens Road, Old Kent Road, Peckham, Rotherhithe, Rye Lane, South Bermondsey, St Giles, and Surrey Docks.

Option 2 includes all wards.

The fees will be split into two payments, £450 for the application fee and £450 for the enforcement fee.

If after public consultation the updated schemes are approved, they will be rolled out in January 2021.

According the report, rogue landlords in the borough “knowingly flout their obligations by letting unsafe and substandard accommodation to tenants, placing their health, safety and welfare at serious risk”.

It states: “Many of these tenants are the most vulnerable people in our society.

“These landlords often target vulnerable tenants and usually house them in overcrowded and poorly managed and maintained accommodation.

“This also has a detrimental impact on neighbourhoods.

“Anti-social behaviour (ASB), nuisance neighbours, accumulations of rubbish and other problems can be linked to the failure of private landlords to manage their properties and tenancies effectively.”

The report states that common problems such as damp and mould can lead to serious health problems for tenants.

Cllr Mills said: “Taken in full, and if agreed by the Secretary of State following consultation, these proposals would see borough wide licensing across all the private rented sector in Southwark.

“We know that there are many poor landlords in Southwark, but we also know that there are good ones and we know that the private rented sector plays an important role in meeting the housing needs of our residents.

“We want to focus not just on enforcement against rogue landlords but to recognise landlords who provide a good service and encourage others to achieve a higher standard.

“We also want tenants to have a better idea of what they should expect from a good landlord, see improvements in the quality of their accommodation and to support them when they are in poor housing or have been treated unfairly.”

Proposals for a ‘Gold Standard’ for landlords were also approved, which means that if a landlord abides by a higher set of standards than usually expected, they get a 50 per cent discount on the licence enforcement fee.

The Gold Standard Charter includes joining a recognised landlords association, having landlord insurance for building and fixtures, publishing fire risk assessments online, and accepting homeless tenants referred by the council, among other things.

A commitment to “open the doors for a renter’s union” was also approved.