Licensing Scheme Central Housing Group

Why selective licensing doesn’t work

Reading the housing news, I see several local councils are proposing to introduce more selective licensing schemes (SLS).

My eyes rolled when I saw that.

Over the years I’ve had a number of properties which have been subject to such schemes. Stamping out anti-social behaviour and improving the quality of local housing stock were their main objectives, they claimed.

Signing away several thousands of pounds (the cost of each council varies, but it’s usually around the five-hundred-pound mark with the scheme lasting up to five years), I queried the council on their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how they would judge the scheme was a success.

Having been on three different schemes now, I can tell you not one council has ever come back to me with those results. Not one council has ever shown me how the schemes work.

Out of the schemes I’ve been on, one ended a couple of years ago. That scheme got 66% of landlords to sign up. That means 34% of landlords did not sign up.

Property standards

What, I asked, were they going to do about this? Surely those who didn’t sign up were the ones to worry about? If a license was required to rent out a property and almost a third were still unlicensed (and to my knowledge, unchecked), how would this improve property standards – one of the main tenets of the scheme?

I never got a decent reply, they told me they were looking into it. After several enquiries over the course of a couple of years, I gave up.

A bit like when I asked what improvements did they get from the introduction of the scheme and how they felt they met their KPIs?

Silence. Stonewalled.

And so when I read yet more councils are planning to introduce SLS, I can’t help but wonder maybe other people have different experiences? Perhaps other councils are doing it better?

Basic information

So I made a point of speaking to other landlords about their experiences. Most of them signed up, sent money and then after a few weeks got a license in the post. Many were not even asked to provide the most basic property information – the latest gas safety check!

How then can a council deem a property is of an acceptable standard when they haven’t even got the CP12 on file? How can councils claim they are ‘improving standards’ when most are not visiting a property, let alone requesting basic information?

I try to be a good landlord and I’m happy to engage with local councils about improving areas and housing standards, but to me these schemes appear to be based upon a presumption that ‘something should be done’ rather than asking: what needs to be done?

Any future SLS, if it is to be successful, needs to be transparent, accountable and clear about KPIs, willing to publicly share information and engage with private sector landlords.

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