Why Selective Licensing Really Isn't Evil
By Carl Agar
Selective Licensing – it’s a phrase which brings a mixture of fear and anger into the hearts of most landlords.
But in reality, if delivered correctly, it really shouldn’t.
Yes, there’s further local government regulation to adhere to, and a need for landlords to spend money on additional certificates and property improvements. But ultimately, I think it could lead to a better Private Rented Sector (PRS) and improved property performance.
In the end, that’s a good thing for landlords.
It all depends, of course, on how a Selective Licensing scheme is delivered. When it works best is when landlords and Local Authorities work hand-in-hand to improve a community for everyone in the area.
Selective Licensing that means all parties benefit? Sounds too good to be true - right? Well, it’s not, and I can prove it. Successful pilots in my local area have shown Selective Licensing implemented in a co-regulated manor can and does deliver results.
Co-regulation in Doncaster
The village of Hexthorpe in Doncaster was the first to benefit from this unique approach. The village has 1,800 homes with around 666 being in the Private Rented Sector. It was also regarded as the worst district in Doncaster in terms of housing standards, property management and antisocial behaviour.
Landlords weren’t feeling very optimistic, as house prices were decreasing badly in the area. In correlation to other properties in the same post code - they were up to 69 per cent lower!
But after just one year of implementing the Co-regulated Selective Licensing, nuisance complaints had fallen by 44%, noise disturbances were down 35%, and there were 25% less housing problems.
The obvious difference between this scheme and many others was not just that the Local Authority worked together with landlords and tenants, but also that a significant amount of resource deployed in the area to drive the change.
In many areas Selective Licencing is an administrative exercise in which many landlords fail to receive their licence for years and many councils fail to even inspect properties once in the five-year period. This is due to a lack of resource and a massive under-estimation of the administration these schemes require.
Government stipulations for councils around Selective Licensing
The Act gives Local Authorities the power to set up a Selective Licensing scheme for private rented properties within a particular geographic location - i.e. the borough or a group of post codes. If it’s more than 20% of the area or affects more than 20% of private rented homes, then the Local Authority is required to have any proposal approved by Department for Communities and Local Government.
In order to stand any chance of a scheme being approved, the Local Authority must show there is a problem with such things as low housing demand or antisocial behaviour, within the given location, and that the initiative is part of a wider strategy to eliminate local issues. A consultation process of a minimum of 10 weeks is mandatory - in which all affected people are given the chance to have their say.
So what can YOU do to make sure Selective Licensing works for you?
If your Local Authority looks to introduce a scheme in your area, then my advice is to really push them to demonstrate how they are actually going to deliver the scheme - and how they intend to measure success. Push for details, ask questions, and have your say.
In another successful scheme area, Newham council literally received several million pounds in grant funding to recruit over 40 new members of staff to deliver their scheme. A good co-regulated approach should also involve a large deployment of resource designed to support landlords, so if your council is proposing nothing - beware! Use these examples and demand to know how your Local Authority plans to match them.
In short, don’t be scared of Selective Licensing. Be involved.