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Government bid to control landlord licensing schemes

It appears the government is stepping in to make local authority landlord licensing less severe and more uniform in its application. A Draft Order put before Parliament under section 250(6) of the Housing Act 2004. It sets out specific sets of conditions which, if they apply to an area, will permit the local council with responsibility for housing (usually the district council) to designate parts of its patch as eligible for landlord licensing.

The Order sets out that for an area to be designated as subject to selective licensing it must contain a “high proportion of properties in the private rented sector, in relation to the total housing accommodation in that area” – although it does not set a figure or percentage.

If such an area then has one or more of four specific conditions, the authority may consider introducing licensing.

Those specific conditions are, firstly, hazards caused by poor housing conditions (so contraventions of environmental health and/or health and safety legislation, for example).

The second specific condition is if the area has experienced or is experiencing “an influx of migration” (which may, for example, lead to overcrowding if premises are not subject to greater regulation through a licence).

The third condition is if the area is “suffering from a high level of deprivation, which affects a significant number of the occupiers of properties” (this is likely to be based on employment figures, average income statistics, the health of the local community, ease of access to education and “the physical environment”).

Finally, another condition is perhaps the most controversial – if the area suffers from high levels of crime.

It has long been the contention of landlords and agents that crime and private rental sector accommodation are not as inextricably linked as some councils suggest when introducing landlord licensing. The new government measure says that if the local authority and the local police together say that licensing may contribute to controlling or reducing crime, the a licensing system could be considered.

These conditions go some way to addressing the concerns of licensing critics.

“The change in the legislation is welcome as it stops local councils introducing unnecessary borough-wide licensing schemes, without an evidence base. Instead it pushes councils towards resolving specific issues in targeted local areas by outlining the key criteria by which schemes should be implemented and judged. We hope to see this progress before the dissolution of parliament later this month” says Richard Lambert of the National Landlords’ Association.

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