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Blanket landlord licensing

When selective landlord licensing was introduced by the Housing Act 2004 it was intended to be a weapon in a local authorities armoury to combat things such as ‘studification’ ( the process whereby an over intensive provision of a certain type of a housing tenure was perceived to cause problems amongst the local community, or put simply, controlling the spread of student ghettos.

Selective licensing was a tool for local authorities to control the numbers of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in a given area, giving them additional powers over and above those controls available to them through the planning system.

The previous Labour Government had already attempted to tighten controls on HMO properties by requiring planning permission for any property housing more than 3 or more individuals sharing. A ridiculous piece of legislation that was thankfully reversed by the Coalition Government.

Councils getting around selective landlord licensing

Some councils have opportunistically used the provisions of the 2004 Housing Act for selective licensing of rented properties as a way to bring in blanket landlord licensing within their local authority area.

For example, Liverpool has introduced a compulsory citywide landlord licensing scheme , Newham is ready to bring in a borough wide licensing scheme for landlords and a bunch of others are still weighing up their options / consulting with their public.

Despite the Coalitions much vaulted support for the localism agenda, they have got wise to councils opportunism and have decided that this legislation has handed councils too much control.

Government to outlaw blanket landlord licensing

The Government have decided that this city/ borough wide approach was not what SELECTIVE landlord licensing was supposed to be about (the clue was in the title) and have decided to act.

We have stated before our opposition to a mandatory landlord licence.

In our view a ‘licence to let’ helps no one apart from funding an army of over-paid council bureaucrats to police the scheme.

The latest guidance for local authorities issued by the DCLG in their snappily titled publication, "Improving the private rented sector and tackling bad practice: a guide for local authorities", will hopefully prevent local authorities introducing their wholesale licensing through the back door.

The guidance states:

“Selective licensing can play an effective role in tackling criminal landlords and linked activities, for example illegal immigration. When it is applied in a borough wide fashion and not properly enforced, it can affect the majority of landlords who provide a good service. The Government is mindful of this when considering the use of selective licensing. To prevent the disproportionate use of selective licensing to penalise good landlords; the Government has announced plans to introduce a threshold in instances where licensing would cover 20% of a local authority’s area or stock of rented properties. In such cases, local authorities must first seek approval from the Secretary of State. Larger schemes will be judged impartially, but they will need to demonstrate need and be supported by adequate enforcement plans. New guidance will be made available, following enactment of the changes.”

This guidance effectively kills ‘back door licensing of the private rented sector, however, all this could be meaningless political posturing with a General Election just weeks away.

A real difference between the parties approach to the PRS

This piece of guidance is the latest proof that we clearly have one party (the Tories) who will keep controls over landlords to a minimum recognising the valuable role that landlords play.

By contrast, the Labour party have set out their stall in the corner of ‘Generation Rent’. Ed Milliband is very keen to be seen to act against landlords, even if in reality it will have little long-term benefit for the tenants whose vote they are SO very desperate to attract.

Interesting times!?

Just make sure that come May you make your vote count for all our sakes.

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