Government plans to curb the powers of local councils to designate selective licensing for private rented homes.

In two key policy documents laid before Parliament, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has thrown down the gauntlet to local authorities attempting to apply blanket licencing schemes without good reason.

The Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions)(England) Order 2015 stops any council planning to introduce a licensing scheme that covers more than 20% of their area or 20% of private rented homes in the council area from implementing the scheme without express permission from the Communities Secretary.

The regulations came into force on 27 March 2015.

How the new rules work

“All applications will be dealt with on a case by case basis and councils must prove why they need to introduce blanket licensing,” said a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The regulations call for the area to be designated for selective licensing to have a high number of private rented homes and to meet at least one of four other conditions:

  • The council wants to inspect homes for health and safety hazards
  • The council is concerned too many people are moving into the area and that homes may be overcrowded
  • The neighbourhood is a deprived area
  • The neighbourhood is suffering from high levels of crime

The new regulations follow successful legal challenges by landlords against selective licensing proposals by councils in Lancashire and Enfield, North London.

Landlords should note that the regulations will only apply in England.

Housing investigator insight

“Selective licensing can play an effective role in tackling criminal landlords and linked activities, for example illegal immigration,” said the spokesman. “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.”

Alongside the new regulations, the DCLG also published guidance for council housing officers detailing how to identify and build cases against bad landlords.

The document gives an interesting insight into what councils will consider bad practice by landlords and how they will evidence investigations.

Download the guidance as an Acrobat Reader file from here