I think I need a licence from my local council. Is there anywhere I can check if I do, and how do I go about applying?
Depending on where in the UK your property is based, you may be lucky when it comes to the licensing lottery, or you might have lucked out.
There is a blanket requirement for licensing in Scotland and Wales. If you own property here, you will absolutely need a licence, no matter what size, shape or location of the property! However, in England the lines are a little more blurred, and the situation is somewhat more confusing…
Whilst by no means mandatory (yet… watch this space!) more and more councils are bringing in licensing schemes, so there is a very real possibility that you may be facing a requirement to secure a licence in order to continue letting your property.
There are plenty of changes coming in within the HMO world over the next few months (new regulations due to land on October 1st) but there are plenty of licensing requirements up and down the county for non-HMO properties too.
Local authorities have the option to introduce two types of discretionary licensing, additional licensing and selective licensing. Additional licensing usually applies to HMOs, although it may be smaller ones that fall below the usual HMO remit, and selective licensing is the more ‘catch all’ licence, applying to any rented property in a geographical area.
Selective licensing is likely to be the licence that you will have to consider, but you should be aware of it is it was brought into your area - in order for any additional licensing scheme to go ahead, it must first undergo a public consultation.
It varies between local authorities, but generally, the easiest way to apply for a licence (and double check if your property needs one is to pay a visit to your council website. Most have fairly simple online forms that you can fill in, making the process fairly simple. It is a criminal offence to fail to secure a licence for a property that requires one, which could result in prosecution, a fine of up to £30,000, an order to repay up to 12 months’ worth of rental income and the inability to evict your tenant using a section 21.
From a financial point of view, it is difficult to say how much this vital slip of paper will cost you as costs vary greatly between regions. However, many offer an early bird discount or offers if you are a member of a landlord organisation, so do look into the costs.
This week alone, there is news that Redbridge is extending the areas covered by selective licensing, whereas Bexley has put the brakes on the introduction of their scheme, so the licensing landscape is continually shifting. It is best practice to check on your local authority website every now and again or pay a visit to a local landlord meeting to get the most up to date information about licensing in your property’s area.
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