Under provisions contained in the Housing Act 2004, local authorities may introduce selective licensing of privately rented homes to address problems in their area, or any part of the area, caused by low housing demand and /or significant anti-social behaviour.

Selective licensing applies to all privately rented property in the designated area compared with additional licensing which only covers HMO’s. The Secretary of State may provide a general approval for areas which means in certain cases the local authority does not need confirmation from the Secretary of State.

A new General Approval applying to England came into force from 1 April 2015.

This new general approval revokes the previous approval which basically covered the whole of England without any exceptions. However, under the new approval, local authorities will require confirmation from the Secretary of State for any selective licensing scheme which would cover more than 20% of their geographical area or would affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area based on figures from census data.

In addition, the criteria for bringing in a selective licensing scheme in England has been toughened by The Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015 which came into force on 27 March 2015.

The further criteria to that contained in the Housing Act 2004 is-

  • that the area contains a high proportion of properties in the private rented sector, in relation to the total number of properties in the area; and
  • that those properties are occupied either under assured tenancies or licences to occupy;

And that one or more of the following applies:

  • the local housing authority considers it would be appropriate for a significant number of the properties to be inspected, with a view to determining whether any category 1 or category 2 hazards exist on the premises;
  • that the area has recently experienced or is experiencing an influx of migration into it;
  • that the area is suffering from a high level of deprivation;
  • that the area suffers from high levels of crime;

The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued non-statutory guidance for local authorities to consider before imposing a selective licensing area.

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