What does Selective licensing mean?

    Selective Licensing is a discretionary licensing scheme which was introduced within the Housing Act 2004 (part 3, section 80) and allows local housing authorities to designate ‘areas suffering from either significant and persistent anti-social behaviour and / or low housing demand’. In 2015 the conditions were expanded to include poor property conditions, high crime, high levels of deprivation and high migration.

    Selective Licensing requires the landlords of all privately rented properties operating within a designated area to operate under the terms of a licence awarded by the Local Authority. There are costs associated with administration of the scheme which is then recouped in the form of charges to the landlords. These charges vary across the country and discounts are often applied for early applications and multiple properties. All licences will have conditions which would typically include a range of requirements aimed at ensuring that properties are safe and managed correctly, this allows the local authority a tool to better regulate privately rented accommodation.

    Is the council using Selective Licensing to raise money?

    No, the scheme is designed to be cost neutral as required by the Housing Act 2004 and fees collected will only offset the cost of additional resources for the scheme. The Council is not allowed to generate any surplus income from the scheme and this has been reflected when working out the licence fee.

    How will you spend the licensing money?

    The licence fee income can only be spent on the running and administration of the scheme. The scheme should be cost neutral and the fee has been calculated to ensure that it will be the case.

    Are you proposing to license properties or landlords?

    The licence is granted to the landlord or agent.  However, landlords will be required to hold a separate license for each property they own. This is a property licence scheme, and every property a landlord owns within the proposed boundary  would need its own licence.

    Is there a 'fit and proper' test for landlords?

    Yes, all landlords applying for a licence will have to have a ‘fit and proper’ person check. This will include things like:

    • Any unspent housing convictions, offenses involving fraud, violence or drugs.
    • Any offence listed in the Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
    • Any unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or disability in connection with the carrying out of any business.

    If the applicant is found not fit and proper, a licence cannot be granted, and the landlord would need to hand over all aspects of the property management to a non-related agent, remove it from the rental market, or if the property is occupied, the council can make a Management Order to take over the running of the tenancy.  

    What are the criteria for a property/landlord needing a licence?

    A licence is required for all privately rented accommodation in the designated area that is not already licenced as a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

    This means all properties rented to single households and will also includes non-mandatory HMOs.

    When would landlords have to apply for a licence?

    There will be a requirement for a landlord to apply for a licence as soon as the designation comes into force.  There will be a three-month notice period before the scheme begins, giving landlords time to make their applications in advance.

    If during the life of the designation new landlords wish to rent out a property within the designated area, they would have to apply for a licence and will be expected to pay the full licence fee regardless of when they join the scheme. The fee relates to the five years scheme and not the length the licence is held.

    What are the criteria for granting a licence?

    It is the responsibility of the person who has control of the property (usually the person who receives the rent for the property) to apply to the Council for a licence. This can be the owner or manager. The Council must issue a licence if it is satisfied that: 

    • the proposed licence holder and proposed manager (if there is one) is a 'fit and proper person' and 
    • that they are the most appropriate person to hold the licence and
    • the proposed management arrangements are satisfactory and 
    • persons involved in the management of the house are competent. 

    If the Council is not satisfied with the above then they may decide to refuse the licence, reduce the term of the licence and/or impose extra conditions on the licence holder.

    Is there a right to appeal if a license is refused?

    Yes, there is an appeal process to follow which would be notified to landlords as part of their decision letter.

    What will be the penalties for not having a licence?

    It is a legal requirement for landlords to apply for a licence and a criminal offence if a landlord fails to do so. Failure to licence may result in a financial penalty of up to £30,000 or a prosecution and an unlimited fine.
    Landlords who fail to license may also be required to repay any rent they have received during the period of time which their property was unlicensed. The council also have the ability to take over management of properties where landlords fail to obtain a licence.

    What conditions are applied to a property licence?

    The conditions fall into general statements about property management (e.g. gas/electrical certificates, fire safety, general repairs etc.) and tenancy agreements, most of which would be already familiar with most landlords. Conditions attached to a licence inform landlords and their agent of the actions expected of them to adequately manage their properties and tenants in order to gain a positive result in an identified area.

    What happens if I don’t comply with the conditions of the property licence?

    Initially you will be supported and given advice on how to comply with the conditions, along with a plan and timeframe for doing do. If there are continued or serious breaches, you would run the risk of a criminal conviction upon prosecution and a possible fine per condition breached, or a civil penalty of up to £30,000 per notice as an alternative to prosecution. Multiple civil penalties could lead to being placed on a public rogue landlords’ database.

    How do I find out if my rented property is licensable?

    There is a map showing the designated areas with details of the streets included. This can be found in appendix 1.

    Would holiday letting accommodation need a licence?

    Properties that are solely used as Holiday Accommodation would not require a License as they are exempt from the proposed Selective Licensing scheme. 

    What properties are exempt from licensing?

    • There are a number of circumstances which may mean you do not have to licence a property:
      • If it has a HMO Licence (flats within a licensable HMO may still need to be licensed)
      • Under a Prohibition Order
      • A commercial premise
      • Agricultural tenancy
      • Owned by a Housing Association
      • Owned by a public body, for example NHS, Police and Fire Service
      • The building is occupied by students and is controlled/managed by a University/College/Specified Person (who conform to an Approved Code of Practice)
      • Is regulated under other legislation such as care homes or HMO's that fall within (Mandatory Licensing)
      • A holiday let
      • Does not have a tenant at the start date of the designation and remains unoccupied. As soon as they are rented out an application for a licence must be made
      • Houses covered by a Temporary Exemption Notice under Housing Act 2004 for example where there is a sale agreed to someone who intends to live in the property themselves or the owner is moving back into the property
      • House covered by a Management Order under the Housing Act 2004
      • Occupied under a long term lease of over 21 years (leaseholders)
      • Houses occupied by the owner and a lodger where the accommodation and amenity such as toilet, bathroom kitchen or living room is shared between the occupier and the landlord/licensor/member of the landlord or licensor's family
      • Houses occupied by members of the owner's family. A 'member of the family' is where you live as a couple or one of them is a relative of the other:
        • A 'relative' means parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin, with 'half-blood' relationships these are treated as whole blood relationships. Stepchildren are treated as son or daughter. Proof of relationships, eg. birth/marriage certificates may be required
    • The exemptions listed here are covered by law and not a decision made by the Council. For full details of exemptions please refer to legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/370/made

    If I am a resident (live in) landlord, do I need a licence?

    A resident landlord (owner) and family may share a house with one or two unrelated lodgers without the need for a licence. A third lodger means the house is an HMO and it must be licensed.

    I rent a room to foreign language students, would I need a license?

    No, you are allowed to have up to two lodgers living as part of your household if you are an owner occupier.

    How will Selective Licensing affect me as a tenant of a property?

    Selective Licensing requires landlords to provide items such as gas safety certificates, the safe provision of electrical appliances and furniture and to keep the fire detection and alarm system in working order. This should provide a greater degree of safety and reassurance to the tenant. Tenants will have the reassurance that their landlord is obliged to ensure that their property is properly managed. Tenants should also be aware that if they were to engage in anti-social behaviour, through the terms of the licence, their landlord will be legally required to take appropriate action to address this, including possession proceedings.

    Will I be able to see which properties are licenced?

    The council will keep a register of properties that are licensed and this will be publicly available on our website.

    I’m not a tenant but do live in the proposed area, how would this affect me?

    Selective Licensing will ensure that privately rented properties in your area are being managed efficiently and will enable the Council to take enforcement action against a wider range of properties where there may be problems. This should result in benefits to all residents, businesses and visitors to the local area.

    What happens if my licence application is refused?

    If your application is refused e.g. you are found not to be a fit and proper person and you are unable to put forward a suitable alternative person to be the licence holder, you will be committing a criminal offence if you continue to let the property.

    I am in the process of selling my property and it is currently empty, do I still need to apply for a licence?

    If a landlord or person in control of a licensable property intends to stop renting it to tenants, and can give clear evidence of this, they can apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice.

    If the Council decides to grant an exemption notice, this will last for a maximum of three months, and ensures that a property in the process of being taken out of the licensing criteria does not need to be licensed.

    If the situation is not resolved within this period, then a second (and final) Temporary Exemption Notice can be issued. When this Notice runs out the property must either be licensed, become subject to an Interim Management Order, or cease to be a licensable property.

    What if I wish to change my agent who is also the licence holder?

    Licences are non-transferable. If a new licence holder is to be introduced then a new licence will have to be applied and paid for.

    Can a licence be transferred?

    No, a licence is personal to the licence holder and specific to the property.

    I have not got any problems in my road so why is it in the proposed scheme?

    The Council looked at the worst performing areas and these are recorded. The data is analysed on small geographic areas known as Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs). LSOAs are used as they are the lowest level of geographic data for which indicators are generally produced by central Government and other agencies and allow the Council to produce a more localised picture of the different areas within the Borough. All LSOAs were ranked based on these indicators and the worst performing areas for every indicator were noted and selected for the proposal. This may mean that there are roads that are included without having all the problems stated but due to being situated in the neighbourhood (LSOA) such roads would be included in the scheme.

    Will my property be inspected?

    Yes, the Council is aiming to inspect every property that has a licence.   This will happen after a licence has been issued. When the property is inspected will depend on the level of risk associated with the property. A higher risk property will be inspected sooner than a lower risk one. The level of risk, depends on previous history, condition, management, etc.

    Why is a landlord held responsible for the tenant's behaviour?

    There is evidence that badly managed, poor quality rental properties encourage anti-social behaviour.

    The official guidance states:

    "A landlord has responsibility to ensure persons he/she has permitted to reside at a property do not cause an annoyance or nuisance to other persons residing in it, or other persons living, working or visiting the immediate neighbourhood. If anti-social behaviour is being carried out within the immediate vicinity of the property and is being caused by the occupiers of it, then it would be reasonable to expect a landlord to ensure that those persons are not conducting themselves in a way that is adversely impacting on the local community. This applies equally to visitors to the property."

    Effective management of tenancies ensures that anti-social tenants are given warnings about their conduct. Landlords know what is going on in their rentals and where warnings fail can terminate tenancies for persistent ASB issues. The Council will work with partners to help landlords gather the evidence they need to support the eviction in Court.

    How do tenants benefit from licensing?

    Licensing will improve the renting in the borough by improving conditions, raising management standards and ensuring proper tenancy arrangements are in place.

    Tenants and prospective tenants will know that landlords are 'fit and proper' persons who have agreed to abide by the conditions of their licence.

    All licensed property will be listed on a public register, which tenants can access to find out whether the property is licensed and will therefore be able to refuse to rent properties that aren't.

    Will my rent go up?

    If you're already renting a property when the scheme comes into force, then licensing should not affect the rent which is contractually agreed between you and your landlord through the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement. It is only after the contract has ended that your landlord can consider whether to increase the rent.

    We would expect landlords to absorb the cost of licensing as part of operating a rental business, much in the same way a food business would have a cost associated with registering their business. The cost is not unreasonable and  will be equivalent to £2.60 per week over 5 years and it can be offset against the business tax costs.

    Some landlords may subsequently increase rents to recover the cost of the licence but this will be a business decision for them to make.

    What happens if I sell the property?

    If you sell your licensed property you MUST let the Council know as soon as possible and request to revoke the licence. If not, the licence will be still be in your name and you may be liable if the conditions are not complied with.

    Will you penalise those that fail to obtain a licence?

    There will be a targeted approach to enforcement and the Council will use a variety of methods to find those that haven't licensed. The Council will also respond to complaints received about unlicensed property. Where necessary the Council will seek to prosecute those that continue to refuse to license their property.