What is Selective Licensing?

The Housing Act 2004 allows local authorities to apply for Selective Licensing of privately rented properties in areas which are experiencing low housing demand and/or suffering from anti-social behaviour.

Selective Licensing in Wales

The Welsh Assembly exercised its powers under the Act to determine additional ‘conditions’ for designating an area. For instance, the regulations allow local housing authorities in Wales to apply for Selective Licensing designation where a district, or an area in their district, comprises a minimum of 25 per cent of housing stock let by a private sector landlord.

Additional licensing

The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Under the law, there are different types of HMO licensing as outlined below.

Mandatory licensing (England)
From 1 October 2018, any landlord who lets a property to five or more people from two or more separate households must be licensed by their local authority.

Large HMOs (Wales)
A property with three or more storeys and at least five occupants who do not form a single household must be licensed.

Additional licensing (England and Wales)
This is when a local authority can impose a licence on other categories of HMOs in its area which are not subject to mandatory licensing.

Fact sheets for members

15 Nov 2017
Fact sheet: Selective Licensing (England)

The Housing Act 2004 allows local authorities to apply for Selective Licensing of privately rented properties in areas which are experiencing low housing demand and/or suffering from anti-social behaviour.

09 Nov 2017
Fact sheet: Selective Licensing (Wales)

The Housing Act 2004 allows local authorities in England and Wales to apply for Selective Licensing of privately rented properties in areas which are experiencing low housing demand and/or suffering from anti-social behaviour.

07 Aug 2018
Fact sheet: Additional Licensing

The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Additional licensing is when a local authority can impose a licence on other categories of HMOs in its area which are not subject to mandatory licensing.

31 Jan 2019
Fact sheet: Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

In May 2015, the UK Government announced that they would extend mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) to address poor conditions and overcrowding.

Covid-19 update

The UK Government are encouraging local authorities to take a common-sense, pragmatic approach to landlord licensing enforcement during these unprecedented times.

The guidance also states that where local authorities are in the process of introducing selective or additional Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing schemes, but these are not yet in force, they should continue to take a pragmatic approach. Furthermore, local authorities may need to be prepared to pause the process completely where it is not safe and reasonable to continue, or if it conflicts with the latest Government advice on the Covid-19 outbreak.

Representing our members

The need for local authorities to postpone the introduction of all licensing schemes until the market can recover from the impacts of Covid-19 formed a key part of our written submissions to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee Inquiries into the impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on homelessness and the private rented sector.

Our evidence stated that the continued requirement for landlord licensing applications to be submitted and fees paid places additional pressure on the sector in the following ways:

  • The cost of licensing may be passed on to tenants via rent increases.
  • Landlords who cannot afford the license fee may decide not to pay the licensing fees and remove their property from market, forcing tenants to seek new homes, placing people at risk and spreading rather than stemming the pandemic.
  • With little or no rents being paid on some properties, not all landlords are able to fund new license fees, leaving them with the choice of criminal liability, or evicting their tenants.
  • With many agents furloughed or working from home they are unable to access relevant paperwork and documentation to complete licensing scheme applications and process fees.
  • Agents are facing problems getting routine maintenance and safety checks at the properties they manage completed. This is because there is a shortage of engineers willing to carry out routine work and most tenants do not want to permit access to strangers even when it is an emergency. Without evidence that routine checks have been successfully completed agents and landlords would be submitting incomplete applications.

We believe councils who are pursuing the implementation of licensing schemes are being socially irresponsible as it needlessly puts vulnerable people at risk of being infected. In this unprecedented situation, landlords and agents are not able to comply with the requirements of the scheme and council resources are unlikely to be able to effectively enforce them.

06 May 2020
Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on homelessness and the private rented sector

ARLA Propertymark has responded to the UK Parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s (HCLG) Inquiry into the impact of Coronavirus on homelessness and the private rented sector.

Our concerns with landlord licensing

Lack of resources
Many licensing schemes fail due to the lack of adequate resources needed to undertake the necessary enforcement activity. Due to the EU Services Directive, the fee to apply for a licence cannot exceed the cost to process the application, meaning that the cost of enforcing the schemes must come from elsewhere. Councils operating licensing schemes have often indicated that the schemes cost more to operate than the funding they receive from licence fees.

Administrative exercise
Licensing schemes focus heavily on the administration involved, often directing staff away from enforcement to process applications. Councils have indicated that processing a single application can take between 15–60 minutes. This can be incredibly time consuming and costly when thousands of properties require licensing.

Penalising compliant landlords and agents
Rogue landlords and agents that the schemes are created to target often continue to operate under the radar. Landlords and agents who are already compliant, pay their licensing fees and fund the administration of the scheme whilst those providing poor housing regularly ignore their legal requirements.

The low number of prosecutions
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 allows civil penalty fines levied for offences in the private rented sector to be retained by the Local Authority for further enforcement. Research conducted in April 2018 by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee highlighted that overall local authorities rarely issue landlords and agents with penalties. Existing licensing schemes have demonstrated that only a small number of prosecutions occur. In 2016/17, 50 per cent of all prosecutions (out of 33 boroughs with licensing across England) came from Newham Borough Council.

Licensing consultation template.docx

Is a discretionary licensing scheme being consulted on in your area? Edit and submit our Word template to your local authority.

Collaborative approach needed

We believe that local authorities should adopt a collaborative approach with letting agents, landlords, professional bodies and public services to tackle issues within the private rented sector.

This approach recognises and rewards landlords and letting agents who already adhere to good practice and enables local authorities to better target their resources on effective intelligence-led enforcement.

Homestamp is a collaborative approach in the West Midlands which we partner. The initiative combines local authorities, private rented sector bodies, universities, the police and fire services. Homestamp considers regional and national issues affecting the sector alongside providing information and training for landlords, addressing potential issues before they arise. Coincidentally, the West Midlands has the lowest level of licensing in England.

Until March 2020 ARLA Propertymark had a co-regulation partnership with Liverpool City Council. The scheme allowed the council to effectively target their resources and rewarded our members who already adhere to high standards. Landlords who opted to use our members also received a discount incentive on licensing fees.

The London Rental Standard ran from 2014 to 2017, we were appointed as one of the accrediting bodies to the scheme by the former London Mayor. The voluntary set of minimum rules separated out agents and landlords performing their duties to a high professional standard, allowing scarce local authority resources to be directed towards inadequate landlords and letting agents.

Is your local authority continuing with the implementation of a new licensing scheme?

Contact us at [email protected] with your concerns and we will lobby them to pause the introduction of the scheme while the Coronavirus pandemic continues.

We have responded to proposals from Liverpool City Council, Oxford City Council, Doncaster Council, Gedling Borough Council, and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, reminding local authorities about guidance issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on the need to take a pragmatic approach to the introduction of schemes, as well as a common-sense approach to enforcement.  

Timothy Douglas Policy and Campaigns Manager | Propertymark

Related news and resources

19 Jan 2021
Licensing schemes are irresponsible in the current climate

Propertymark has responded to a number of licensing scheme proposals from local authorities across England in recent months arguing that Councils who are pursuing the implementation of licensing schemes are being socially irresponsible. This is because in these unprecedented times landlords and agents are not able to comply with the requirements and Council resources are unlikely to be able to effectively enforce them.

19 Nov 2020
Mayor of London launches licence checker

Yesterday 18 November, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched a licence checker online tool which aims to protect the ‘wellbeing of London’s private renters’ to help them discover if their landlord has properly licensed their home.

19 Jun 2020
Non-compliance sees second HMO landlord banned from the PRS

The importance of compliance as a landlord with a house in multiple occupation (HMO) property has been brought to light in a recent case. A second man in the UK has been banned from being a landlord in the private rented sector (PRS) after breaching multiple safety regulations in his licensed HMO property.

01 Apr 2020
Newcastle City Council postpones additional and selective licensing schemes

Letting agents in Newcastle, supported by ARLA Propertymark, have successfully lobbied Newcastle City Council to postpone the introduction of new selective and additional licensing schemes due to have come into force on 6 April.

04 Feb 2020
Cowboy landlord ordered to pay £90,000 fine

A buy-to-let landlord with properties across North London has been handed a fine for continuously ignoring selective licensing laws.

07 Nov 2019
‘No plans’ to introduce national landlord register

Government has confirmed that a detailed assessment of the ‘A licence to rent’ report has not been undertaken and there are no plans in place to introduce a national landlord register.