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Selective Licensing a guide for Landlords

Selective Licence Schemes were introduced as a means for local authorities to prevent the impact of anti-social tenants, whilst also stamping out bad practice within the private rented sector.

These schemes don’t operate nationwide – as the name suggests, they are only applicable in selected regions. Indeed, when the legislation was rolled out more than a decade ago, the primary reason not to make it a nationally applied policy was to ensure that measures could be carefully targeted towards problem areas, without adding any unnecessary burden to landlords across the rest of the country.

At its launch, the legislation was welcomed with cautious optimism. Whilst most in the private rented sector supports initiatives which drive up housing standards – however there has always been concern that this legislation would add unnecessary and ineffective bureaucracy onto private landlords.

Indeed – as feared, since its launch the number of schemes has risen dramatically, and estimates are there are in excess of 100 different licensing schemes now in place.  

Where a scheme has been introduced into a Local Authority, landlords need to apply for a licence to rent a property out. Not only is there a cost involved – typically around £500 for each property – but the landlord also needs to comply with specific licensing conditions.

Unfortunately, this means that the terms of a licence aren’t standard, and there also isn’t a single, publicly available register of each of the different schemes in operation.

The result is that there is a variety of different schemes across England, and the minefield of regulation could leave landlords feeling a little perplexed.

Meanwhile, fines for breaching the licence conditions can vary from around £5,000 and can reach as high as £20,000.  

How does a council decide whether to introduce a licensing scheme?

Firstly, a local authority can’t simply decide they’d like to introduce Selective Licensing. It must be in response to certain conditions. These conditions are:

  • The area has low demand for housing
  • Anti-social behaviour is causing a significant and persistent problem
  • The area has an issue with poor property conditions
  • There are high levels of migration
  • High levels of deprivation and/or crime blight the area

This means that the local authority should be able to demonstrate how the introduction of a licensing scheme will improve local outcomes. 

Crucially, a local authority should not simply expect to be able to rely on the introduction of a licensing scheme to solve local issues but should instead use the full range of existing enforcement powers to tackle the identified problems.

What to do if your local council proposes intruding such a scheme?

We would urge landlords to get involved in the consultation if their local authority or council proposes introducing a Selective Licensing Scheme. 

Where issues of anti-social behaviour need to be addressed, or there are high levels of crimes being committed then the authorities should work together to tackle these issues rather than simply imposing additional costs and bureaucracy onto private landlords. Not only is this unfair, but it simply will not be an effective way of solving the problems.

How can landlords ensure they comply with local licensing requirements?

In order for landlords to feel confident they are complying with any local licensing requirements it is wise to appoint a professional and qualified agent.

Letting agents should be aware of the different schemes across their region, whilst also providing advance warning of any new schemes which are due to be introduced.

Do Selective Licensing Schemes work?

Unfortunately, we believe that Selective Licensing has created additional costs and added unnecessary red tape onto landlords, possibly without actually raising standards. If we really want to improve standards in the private rental sector, we believe this scheme could be replaced with a template that forces all local authorities to work to a standard model and enforce the existing legislation designed to tackle sub standard housing.