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Blanket landlord licensing stopped by new law

8 April 2015

Local councils wanting to impose blanket licensing on private landlords will now have to ask permission from the government.

In a parting shot aimed at councils who try to use selective licensing as a method of controlling property investment for political ends, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis pushed through a new law just before the dissolution of Parliament for the general election.

From March 27, 2015, local councils must now ask the Department of Communities and Local Government before designating any are subject to selective licensing where:

• Private rented homes make up more than 20% of all homes in the area

Or

• The selective licensing zone is more than 20% of the council area

And the licensing area has to also meet at least one of several other conditions –

• The homes need inspecting for health and safety dangers
• Too many people are living in overcrowded homes
• The selective licencing zone is a deprived area
• Crime is too high in the neighbourhood

The Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015 come in the wake of landlords winning legal challenges against selective licensing proposals in Lancashire and Enfield, London.

In both cases, the judges pointed out that the councils had not properly consulted before trying to start licensing landlords.

“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.”

The new law only applies to England.

Selective licensing is a tool for councils to manage private rented homes. The original aim was for small neighbourhoods to have the controls, but some councils, like Newham, London, have blanket licensing over the whole borough.

In Newham, 35,000 buy to let homes and houses in multiple occupation (HMO) are licensed and other London councils want to follow suit.