An independent review has been carried out on selective licensing in the private rental sector, making a range of recommendations to streamline processes.
The review has backed the formation of a National Landlord Register, amongst several other recommendations, including the following:
- The review suggests amending the mandatory licence conditions that Private Landlords must comply to. The document suggests that conditions should include a standard requirement on the condition of any rental property – a standard which must cover the absence of serious hazards.
- Considering the issuing of best practice/guidance as appropriate to support local authorities, and improve the implementation of schemes.
- Government should consider adding to the specific exemptions from selective licensing schemes where the case can be made; for example, purpose-built student accommodation that follows a Government approved code.
- Appropriate criteria that engage validation by the Secretary of State for all designations above a certain level should remain in place at a similar level to the current “20% of the privately rented sector (based on figures from census data) or 20% of total geographic area” threshold.
- Government should explore options for a “light touch” process for authorities seeking to re-designate an area at the end of a period of licensing, for example, in cases where there is no substantive change proposed to the existing scheme.
- Government should consider introducing a national registration scheme for landlords (the National Landlord Register) to support and complement selective licensing.
- The review suggested an exploration of the alternatives to judicial review as the primary method of challenging a designation. The report comments that ‘the process of judicial review can be prohibitively expensive’.
- Currently, in most cases, licenses are issued for a full five-year period regardless of the time remaining on the designation. The review comments on Local authorities introducing new schemes – recommending that they adopt the practice of charging the enforcement element of the licence fee to reflect the remainder of the designation period. This should only apply in cases where there is no evidence of a deliberate attempt to avoid applying for a licence, however.
- The review mentions that current licensing applications are extensive, and sometimes irrelevant to certain areas. The recommendation is that Government should consider allowing local authorities to streamline the licence application process for landlords by allowing local authorities to include on the application form only those questions that they consider relevant to their specific scheme.
- Government should consider including breaches of planning law as an offence which can cause a landlord to fail the ‘fit and proper’ test as part of the application for a license.
- Currently, local authorities with a selective licensing designation can investigate housing benefit and council tax data for the purpose of gathering intelligence about the private rented sector. Government should explore options for usefully expanding the range of data that can be shared with local authorities beyond this.
You can read the full review here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/809757/Selective_Licensing_Review_2019.pdf