Renting in Norwich could be heading for a massive overhaul as City Hall considers bringing in new rules to require all landlords to be licensed.

The Labour-led city council (NCC) is looking at the proposals in an effort to crack down on problem landlords and drive-up standards.

Under the plans, all properties would require accreditation before they can be rented out.

The move would mean the authority could take enforcement action against anyone who failed to meet the standards they set, with fines or a ban for repeat offenders. 

While the council ultimately wants all the roughly 15,000 rental properties in the city to require a licence - which will require government approval - leaders have said the scheme will be introduced in stages. 

The first area NCC wants to target is shared houses - also called a ‘house in multiple occupation’ (HMO).

HMOs are properties shared by five or more unrelated tenants, who all rent rooms and have access to a communal space.   

While HMOs already require a licence, NCC wants to extend the requirements to every property with three unrelated people, which would dramatically increase the number of homes it applies to. 

There are currently around 3,000 HMOs in the city with licences costing £1,111 for five years. 

There are around 15,000 rental properties in the city.

Eastern Daily Press: Beth Jones, deputy leader of Norwich City CouncilBeth Jones, deputy leader of Norwich City Council (Image: Submitted)

Beth Jones, the deputy leader and member for housing at NCC, said: “Private renters, understandably, are really reluctant to challenge their landlords if it is poor quality because they could get a Section 21 [no fault eviction] and they’ll just put someone else in.

"With a licence, you can start looking at what standards people are having to meet and that will help drive up those standards.

"The reality is we've got to take tough action and ultimately we will be looking at extending licensing on all private properties, with the aim of licensing everything in the city."

Standards could include things like a minimum energy performance rating for the property and gas safety and electrical inspection certificates.

Ms Jones said they want to set a “Norwich standard” similar to the one the authority already has for its own properties. 

Eastern Daily Press: Normandie Tower, a block of council homes owned by City HallNormandie Tower, a block of council homes owned by City Hall (Image: Archant)

While the plans will take time to develop Ms Jones said work is already under way.

She wants to target HMOs first because as a proportion they tend to have a higher rate of hazards.

While Ms Jones stressed there are many very good landlords in the city, she said others were not taking their responsibility to "homes and health" seriously.

In recent years the city council has cracked down on several rogue landlords.

This includes the owner of Faith’s Lane Apartments, who NCC took to court in 2020 after residents complained of suffering mouldy walls and broken heating.

Eastern Daily Press: ould in the corridor at 60 St Faith's Lane, Norwich.ould in the corridor at 60 St Faith's Lane, Norwich. (Image: Archant)

However, the city council has not been without its own issues, with a backlog of safety checks in council homes.

The authority has been working to make sure all properties are up to scratch since the issue was identified in October 2021.

Mike Stonard, the leader at Norwich City Council, said rentals need better regulation and improved tenant rights.

Eastern Daily Press: Mike Stonard, leader of Norwich City CouncilMike Stonard, leader of Norwich City Council (Image: Brittany Woodman/ Archant)

He said: “We’ve got a backlog and we need to catch up but we’re working through it and we need to ensure there is a parity [in the private sector]. 

“We are not going to neglect one at the expensed of the other because housing is absolutely vital whether you’re a private renter or a council tenant.” 

Is anywhere else doing this?

This is not an entirely novel idea, with the Oxford City Council having rolled out a similar scheme at the end of last year.

In Oxford, a five-year licence is initially costing £480 for the property, which is increasing to £1,100 in September. 

Failing to licence means that tenants can claim up to 12 months' rent back while Oxford can fine landlords £30,000.