The Landlord Licensing scheme has recently taken effect in several cities and boroughs in the United Kingdom.
The scheme, which is also known as selective licensing, sets out to ensure that landlords are “fit or proper persons”, and that the buildings being let out are fit for occupation. If someone cannot meet the ‘fit and proper’ landlord criteria the scheme sets out, they will be refused a licence.
Despite having been introduced in certain areas recently, it is not new, and was provided for by the UK Housing Act 2004. Nonetheless, enforcement of Landlord Licensing is still in its infancy. Several city councils, for example, Bradford, Luton, Stoke & York have yet to implement the scheme (as at time of publication), whilst Liverpool and Manchester enforced the scheme in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Selective licensing really is an attempt to improve the rental market by raising standards and helping to identify non-compliant landlords and management agents who do not invest in their properties or manage them properly.
Areas are designated for selective licensing upon the discretion of the local council. Often a scheme will only cover certain wards or areas of a city, and under new rules only 20% of a council’s area can be selectively licensed without a special application being made.
A scheme lasts for five years and can be renewed if the local council deems it necessary.
Landlords in London can use the London Property Licensing website to find out whether they are in an area covered by a scheme, but there is no countrywide list of schemes. Checking with the local council is the safest strategy.
Where selective licensing applies, then normally all houses within the private rented sector for that area must be licensed, except where they require to be licensed as HMOs (houses in multiple occupation). Licensable HMO properties are properties with three or more storeys, and are occupied by five or more tenants not from a single household. Non-licensable HMOs must be licensed under selective licensing.
Some properties are exempt from selective licensing. These include:
- Holiday lets
- Business premises
- Student premises where the university is the landlord/manager
- Premises where the tenant is a family member
Each local council sets their own licence fees and discounts, and the licences last until the end of the 5-year period. In Manchester the licence costs £650, with each additional licence costing £550. Liverpool charges a fee of £400 for the first, with each subsequent licence costing £350.
In Liverpool, properties managed by professional managers who are members of one of the council’s approved co-regulation organisations (e.g. the Association of Residential Lettings) are entitled to a 50% discounted fee. This means that investors of property developments like Queensland Place and Parliament Place need only pay £200 for the licence.
If the property consists of en-suite units in a cluster sharing a common living area, only a single licence is required for the whole cluster. Student accommodation is a good example of this. This means that cost of one licence can be divided amongst the individual units, greatly reducing the price of licensing.
This is good news for investors in student accommodation. The more units one cluster has, the greater the division, and the lower the cost of licensing. However, studio apartments with no common living area will require a single licence for each individual apartment.
The local councils are taking this very seriously. In October last year, a landlord in Liverpool was fined £1,500 due to his failure to obtain a licence.
“The punishments can be very high,” says Richard Tacagni, founder and managing director of property consultancy London Property Licensing. “Landlords can be forced to pay 12 months’ rent back to a tenant, or could be told that they are unable to rent out a property in future.”
Article by Ian Choong
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