With more and more local authorities implementing selective licensing schemes, have you got a 'licence to let'?
It’s old news that HMOs require a licence – this is a long-standing regulation and most landlords are fully aware of it. However, more and more we are seeing evidence of local authorities implementing selective licensing schemes across the country.
Is this just another swipe at landlords?
Sections 79,80 and 81 of the Housing Act 2004 has given local housing authorities the power to impose selective landlord licensing regulations across all or part of their districts, subject to the area meeting certain conditions.
The area must either display evidence of experiencing (or be likely to experience) low housing demand, and the housing authority can prove that designating this are will lead to improved social and economic conditions in the area:
The area is experiencing ‘significant and persistent’ problems caused by anti-social behaviours, and the council believe that private landlords are not taking appropriate actions to tackle this. Licensing, in combination with other measures, must be able to be proven to reduce or eliminate this problem.
Why do I need one?
Fines for failing to secure a licence is set by the individual local authority, however they can run into the tens of thousands. Breaching the terms of a license is nearly as bad, with thousands of pounds at stake there too!
Other than to avoid the potential hefty fine, there another very good reason to make sure you have a licence in place if your council requires one. Without one you will not be able to issue your tenant with a Section 21 if you ever need to.
They don’t sound like they’d be popular?
Ultimately, they’re not the most popular move – many landlords feel that having to comply with a licensing scheme is just another way of councils making money out of honest landlords.
And certain areas are starting to push back.
A proposed landlord licensing scheme for Wisbech in Cambridgeshire was scrapped this week, after local councillors could not agree how to move the scheme forward.
Plans for the selective scheme, which would have impacted around 2,400 rental properties and required landlords to purchase five-year licences for £575 and pass a ‘fit and proper persons’ test’, were shelved by Fenland Council cabinet.
This follows a consultation in Summer 2016 of over 400 people, which showed that 85% of landlords were against a selective licensing scheme being introduced.
So, what do I need to do?
Your first step should be to find out if your area requires you to hold a licence.
Whilst more and more councils are turning to this option, not all areas of the country require one.
The areas that require licenses are:
- Barking and Dagenham
- Stoke on Trent
- Waltham Forest
- West Lindsey
In some areas, only certain regions require a licence – in Thanet for example only Cliftonville West and Margate/Margate central require landlords to be licensed. Be sure to check with your local council if your area applies.
Licenses typically range from £500 to £1000 for five years, and most are per property, rather than a cost per landlord. However, some areas are offering discounts if you have multiple properties.
To qualify for a licence, you will need to provide your council with a fair amount of information!
It is best to prepare the following information in advance, as you are likely to need it:
- A valid, in-date gas safety certificate
- The full address of the property to be licensed
- Full contact details (including name, address, phone number, email and date of birth) of applicant
- Full contact details of licence holder
- Full contact details of property owner
- Full contact details of property manager
- Full contact details of mortgage account holder
- Full contact details of any other interested parties
- Details and dates of any legal actions or conviction against the licence holder and their associates
- Details of the facilities within the property (number of rooms/bathrooms etc)
- Details of the number of people living in the property
- Date the property was built
So that you don’t get left shaken or stirred, make sure you are familiar with any licences which you may require!
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