Housing minister Brandon Lewis has announced reforms of selective licensing schemes for landlords in whole boroughs or cities, meaning that local councils’ decision-making powers have been restricted.
Since 2010, local councils have been able to license landlords in entire boroughs or jurisdictions, in a bid to tackle issues such as anti-social behaviour in alleged hotspots. This caused a huge rise in the amount of schemes being launched.
However, councils will now need Government approval before implementing a licensing scheme, if they want to license a whole area or large proportion of the market. This is suspected to be over 20% of either the geographical area covered by the council or the local private rental sector. The changes come into force on 1st April 2015.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) has been continuously lobbying against the schemes since 2010. It also published a report on the state of landlord licensing around the country in February.
The report highlights a sharp increase in blanket licensing schemes since 2010, but also emphasises a lack of enforcement actions by local councils. The NLA also found a connection between the political control of councils and their tendency to license landlords.
Chief Executive Officer of the NLA, Richard Lambert, says: “We’ve argued solidly since 2010 that councils have been abusing their power to push through blanket licensing schemes. Today’s announcement means that if a council intends to license a large proportion of its housing it will first need to show the case stands up to independent scrutiny.
“The Government was the first to see a copy of our licensing report, and we’re delighted they have listened to our case because at present, the driving force behind licensing landlords seems to be the political will of a given local council, regardless of the evidence.
“Many local councils won’t like this decision one bit, because until now they’ve been their own judges, and the only way for landlords to challenge them has been through the difficult and complex route of judicial review.
“Landlords are getting fed up with being unfairly targeted and made responsible for problems such as anti-social behaviour when in reality they have little effective control over the issue, except by eviction. Hopefully this now means that councils who are serious about tackling poor property standards and anti-social behaviour will first look to the extensive existing legal powers they already have to combat the issues.”1