In England, every local authority has the power to introduce its own ‘selective licensing’ schemes, which can apply to any rented property and require it to be licensed, regardless of the size or type of let.
This enables councils to keep track of which properties are rented out and make sure that certain areas don’t become too saturated with a particular type of accommodation, to the detriment of the neighbourhood.
It also makes it easier for them to identify and prosecute landlords who fail to maintain decent standards.
To apply for a licence, the council will require various pieces of information and documentation, such as:
- The number of rooms and storeys
- An accurate floor plan of the property (ideally professionally prepared)
- Details of occupants and a copy of the tenancy agreement
- A declaration that the property manager is a ‘fit and proper person’
- Confirmation that the furniture and furnishings comply with fire safety regulations
- Copies of gas and electrical safety certificates.
Keep a copy of your application (so it can be re-sent if the Council lose it!) and proof of posting so you can prove it has been submitted, if necessary.
The cost of a five-year licence can vary significantly, depending on the council, and could be anything from around £500 to £1,500 or even more in some areas. Generally, there is an up-front payment that has to be made at the time of application, then the balance is payable on approval.
Each scheme runs for five years, after which a council can either renew or scrap it. However, they may also revoke a scheme and terminate it early, and they can have more than one scheme running at a time.
For example, the London borough of Harrow currently has three separate schemes in place, which apply to four different wards:
- Effective from 14th March 2018, for the wards of Roxbourne and Roxeth
- Effective from 28th April 2021, for Edgware
- Effective from 2nd September 2021, for Wealdstone
And a scheme doesn’t have to apply to a whole ward – it can be limited to specific streets. For instance, Hammersmith and Fulham will begin a new licensing scheme on 5th June this year that applies to just 24 streets, while Sheffield City Council currently has a scheme that has been implemented “along parts of London Road, Abbeydale Road and Chesterfield Road.”
How do I know if a scheme is operating in my area?
For landlords operating in the capital, there is a dedicated London Property Licensing website, but unfortunately there is no central register for the whole country. And the reality is that some councils are not very good at promoting their schemes, which can come into force at relatively short notice, so it can be very tricky for individual landlords to stay on top of selective licensing in their area and to know whether it applies to them.
Your local council housing department will be able to advise you about any schemes currently running and if you belong to a local landlord association or your council runs a landlord accreditation scheme, you should be notified of any changes relating to selective licensing.
And, of course, if your property is let and managed by us, we will be able to advise you as early as possible about any schemes that might affect you. We can also guide you through the licence application process and help ensure your property is compliant with all the conditions.
It’s important to be aware that if there is a selective licensing scheme that covers your property and you either don’t secure a licence or you breach any of the conditions, you can be penalised by your local council. Without taking you to court, they could impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000, force you to pay up to 12 months’ rent back to your tenant and issue a banning order, preventing you from letting property. If the breach is considered serious enough, you may be prosecuted and could face an unlimited fine and even jail time – so you really must make sure you have a way of keeping up to date with the local licensing regulations.