Regional News Samantha Watkin 15/02/2024

London Borough of Haringey- an enforcement deep dive

As part of the NRLA’s ongoing work into the enforcement of housing standards and the value of local licensing schemes, we have now launched a regular series investigating individual local authorities and how they regulate the private rented sector.

For this piece, we are taking a look at the London Borough of Haringey. 

Haringey is a London based local authority, with a PRS housing population of just under 44,000 properties with a total population of 264,000 residents . Since May 2019, the council has operated a borough wide additional licensing scheme covering around 5000 properties, and from November 2022 a selective licensing scheme has been in force, covering over 25,000 properties. These two schemes operate alongside mandatory licensing. 

What is the NRLA’s position on enforcement? 

Far from being an unregulated sector, there are around 170 pieces of legislation setting out hundreds of different obligations for landlords. Much of the regulation, particularly around housing standards, is enforced by councils. 
Previous research from the NRLA has identified a system of postcode enforcement in place, where some local authorities make good use of their existing enforcement powers while others make little or no use of them. 
The NRLA has long argued that local authorities must be properly resourced, sharing best practice and supported by Westminster to ensure that enforcement is consistent across the country. This levels the playing field for good landlords and ensures tenants can live in the safe homes they should. 

As part of that, we believe it is crucial that local authorities base their work on solid data and excellent record keeping. We have also argued that this information should be shared with residents and central government on an annual basis to help identify best practice and show the value of the work being done.  

Inspection frequency and capacity of council officers

At the beginning of 2023 in the information provided to DLUHC, Haringey employed over 21 members of staff, with actively recruiting more to fill vacant posts within the private rented sector housing team. These staff compromised of 1 Private Sector Housing Team Manager, 3 Private Sector Housing Team Leaders, 1 Licensing Processing Team Leader, 5.5 Private Sector Housing Enforcement Officers, 2 Compliance Officers, 8 Licensing Process Officers and 1 Business Support Officer.

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) play a vital role monitoring and enforcing complaints of disrepair and poor housing conditions in the PRS.  In the context of private housing, EHOS are responsible for monitoring and enforcing complaints of disrepair in the PRS and taking appropriate action.

They assist in licensing and inspecting HMOs and investigating complaints of poor housing conditions. Such complaints can cover excess cold, overcrowding, fire safety and dampness within private properties.

Although the council does have a good level of staff employed to tackle enforcement in the borough, the lack of EHOs does provide barriers to the effectiveness of this enforcement. It works out to on average one EHO for every 8000 PRS properties in the borough of Haringey.

With these members of staff, the council between 2021-2023 issued 35 civil penalty notices, the vast majority focusing on offences relating to not having an HMO licence as opposed to poor property conditions.

In comparison, for the same period, the London Borough of Lewisham issued 46 civil penalties just for failure to comply with management regulations in respect of HMOs alone, coupled with 872 HHSRS inspections. 

Through a series of freedom of information requests, the London Borough of Haringey confirmed it carried out just 21 HHSRS inspections of private rented properties from 2021 to 2023. Over the same period, it received 1432 complaints, but as it does not separate complaints by tenure, this was a mix of both PRS and social housing complaints in total. It’s therefore not possible to calculate what private rented sector complaints received follow up enforcement.  

This compares poorly with some other local authorities such as Brent. During the same period Brent carried out 3093 HHSRS inspections and issued 395 Improvement Notices. 

What does this all mean? 

Without sufficient enforcement capacity, tenants who do live in the minority of substandard properties in the PRS will struggle to access support. Similarly, responsible landlords who comply with their legal obligations will be at a competitive disadvantage. 

Other London boroughs with a smaller PRS stock population, like Camden for example with 31000 units, has 21 EHOs to enforce standards in the sector. 

Likewise, across the country there is typically one EHO per 5,200 PRS housing units, according to NRLA research. 

Damp and mould

Following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old boy who died in social housing due to damp and mould being present in the property long term, the Secretary of State for housing Michael Gove requested information from each local authority on how they tackle damp and mould within the private rented sector and their level of enforcement action against such properties.

According to Haringey’s submission to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, they have not undertaken a specific assessment of damp and mould in their private rented stock, so were unable to give an answer to that question. This is due to the limited resources available to the private sector housing teams both financially and physically, so they have had no strategic need to undertake an assessment which solely focused on that outcome.  

When it comes to complaints relating to housing standards between 2019-2022 that referenced a complaint about damp and mould, 374 complaints were raised. Out of these 374 complaints, DLUHC asked how many resulted in inspections by the council.

Haringey answered that they did not have the data requested, due to the complaint system used by their private rented sector team which allowed officers to capture whether the issue was resolved and through what type of action. It did not allow officers to identify if it was resolved through an in-person inspection or through any other means.   

When it comes to all formal and informal enforcement action taken on damp and mould, 27 instances were recorded by the council. 6 Improvement Notices were issued in three years (2019-2022) that were in relation to damp and mould hazards, which works out to 1.6% of complaints receiving formal enforcement action.  No civil penalties or criminal prosecutions were pursued in relation to damp and mould hazards. 

Housing Stock Knowledge

It is crucial that local authorities have a good insight into their PRS housing stock along with other housing tenures, as it can help to identify areas where targeted funding and enforcement may be appropriate.

Haringey undertook stock modelling in 2021 as part of their evidence gathering for their now implemented selective licensing scheme, and meta street stock modelling in 2023 to review Houses in Multiple Occupation. Metastreet’s methodology is based on metadata and machine learning to provide insights about the prevalence and distribution of a range of housing stresses and factors.

It appears that Haringey has only conducted some form of stock modelling in preparation for the introduction of discretionary licensing. Local authorities are obliged under the Housing Act 2004 to keep housing conditions in their borough under review for all tenures, including the private rented sector. Up to date information on housing stock can help to identify areas where targeted funding and enforcement may be appropriate and strengthened, for example.

In NRLA research, 12% of local authorities stated that their most recent stock condition survey occurred in 2020 or later. 35% of councils conducted a stock condition survey ten years ago.  


Haringey have recently consulted to renew their borough wide additional licensing, arguing that the designation can provide more powers to help tackle poorly managed privately rented property. Building upon the existing licensing scheme, the council wants to continue to improve living conditions for residents living in HMO accommodation and ensure they have a better quality of life. 

However, based on the data provided, it is unclear how the current enforcement strategy is raising the standard of living conditions for tenants.

Only 7 properties received a HHSRS inspections each year, and only 6 out of 374 complaints led to an improvement notice for damp and mould. More work will need to be done to crack down on problems in the private rented sector should the decision be taken to continue with a borough wide additional licensing scheme. 

Samantha Watkin

Samantha Watkin Policy Officer

Samantha Watkin is a Policy Officer for the NRLA and assists with discretionary and mandatory licensing, local government representation and enforcement in the private rented sector. She has a previous background working in local government and the House of Commons.

See all articles by Samantha Watkin