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Selective licensing

Sub heading

Proposed selective licensing for Luton

 

Designation of an area for selective licensing

Following extensive public consultation regarding the proposal to introduce a scheme to drive up standards in the private rented sector, Under Section 80 of the Housing Act 2004 Luton Council has the power to designate areas of the town subject to selective licensing.

These include:

  • the whole of Biscot and Dallow wards
  • parts of Hightown, Farley and South wards

The scheme, which will come into effect 1 May 2020, will mean that all private landlords with residential accommodation in these areas would need to apply for a licence for each property. In order to become a licence holder a landlord would have to meet certain standards.

The designation was made on 1 February 2020 and will come into force on 1 May 2020. The full designation can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.

Applications for a licence will be accepted from 1 May 2020 through this page.

Housing Act 2004 - improving conditions in privately rented property

Section 80 of the Housing Act 2004 gives powers to councils to designate areas, or the whole of the area within their district, as subject to selective licensing (requiring every privately rented residential property to be licensed) provided certain conditions are met:

  • the area is experiencing low housing demand (or is likely to become such an area) and we are satisfied that making a designation will, when combined with other measures contribute to an improvement in the social or economic conditions in the area

OR

  • the area is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour and that some or all private sector landlords in the area are not taking appropriate action to combat the problem that it would be appropriate for them to take; and the making of a designation, when combined with other measures taken by us, or by us in conjunction with others, will lead to a reduction in, or elimination of, the problem

OR any of the following conditions:

  • 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
  • that the properties above are occupied either under assured tenancies or licences to occupy

AND

  • that having carried out a review of housing conditions we consider a significant number of properties should be inspected, with a view to enforcement; making a designation will contribute to an improvement in general housing conditions

OR

  • the area is experiencing an influx of migration; a significant number of the properties are occupied by those migrants; making a designation will contribute to the improvement of social or economic conditions in the area and ensuring that the properties are properly managed and overcrowding is prevented

OR

  • that the area is suffering from a high level of deprivation and that making a designation will contribute to a reduction in the level of deprivation

OR

  • that the area suffers from a high level of crime; the criminal activity affects those living in the premises or other households or businesses in the area; making a designation will contribute to a reduction in the level of crime

Further conditions

We must also:

  • ensure that the exercise of the power is consistent with their overall housing strategy
  • seek to adopt a coordinated approach in connection with dealing with homelessness, empty properties and anti-social behaviour affecting the private rented sector as regards combining licensing with other action taken by them or others
  • consider whether there are any other courses of action available to them that might provide an effective method of achieving the objective or objectives that the designation would be intended to achieve
  • consider that making the designation will significantly assist them to achieve the objective or objectives (whether or not they take any other course of action as well)

Why have we introduced a selective licensing scheme?

We've introduced a selective licensing scheme, which will require all privately rented residential accommodation within the designated area to have a property licence.

We have introduced the scheme due to:

  • the high proportion of properties in the private rented sector in the town
  • increasing levels of private sector housing enforcement activity
  • the area experiencing an influx of migration
  • the area suffering from a high level of deprivation

The scheme will provide the following benefits for all:

  • a higher standard of management from both landlords and agents
  • reduced overcrowding
  • improved housing conditions
  • improved image and perception of the area
  • greater ability of landlords to deal with rogue tenants
  • reduction in crime and antisocial behaviour
  • better waste management
  • more settled communities
  • mixed and vibrant community that people enjoy living in
  • improved health and wellbeing of tenants

What areas does the scheme cover?

Our research identified five wards consistently scoring highly in relation to:

  • private renting
  • noise
  • antisocial behaviour
  • flytipping
  • private sector
  • enforcement activity
  • crime

The area covers the following wards:

  • whole of Biscot and DallowBiscot and Dallow
  • parts of South, Farley and High Town

Who requires a licence?

When the scheme comes into effect, all residential properties let by private landlords within the designated areas of the town must have a licence.

A licence holder can be the owner or an appropriate person appointed by the owner, eg a managing agent.

All landlords must make a valid application for each property they rent out. This can be done through our online application process and we'll provide tailored advice and help, where needed.

In order to obtain a licence you'll need to demonstrate that you are a ‘fit and proper’ person and that you have satisfactory management arrangements in place for the property.

This will involve providing identification and a declaration to confirm your status with regards to criminal offences.

Are there any exemptions from selective licensing?

Yes, a full list of statutory exemptions can be found in the Selective Licensing of Houses (Specified Exemptions) (England) Order 2006.

If you are in any doubt you should seek independent legal advice.

What is a 'fit and proper person'?

We must take into account any evidence that the person applying for a licence has:

  • committed any offence involving fraud or other dishonesty, violence, drugs and certain sexual offences
  • practised unlawful discrimination in connection with any business on the grounds of:
    • sex
    • colour
    • race
    • ethnic
    • national origins
  • contravened any provision of the law relating to housing or landlord and tenant law

Licence conditions

Under the licensing scheme, we have discretion to set the precise conditions of the licence in relation to antisocial behaviour and general management of the property.

These can include conditions relating to:

  • the use and occupation of the house
  • measures to deal with anti-social behaviour of the actual tenants or those visiting the property

There are also certain mandatory conditions included in a licence.

Licensees would be required to:

  • present a gas safety certificate annually to us, if gas is supplied to the house
  • keep electrical and furniture (under the tenancy) in a safe condition
  • keep smoke alarms in proper working order
  • supply the occupier a written statement of terms of occupation
  • demand references from persons wishing to occupy the house

As part of the application process, you must be able to demonstrate satisfactory management is in place for each rented property. We aim to use the selective licensing scheme to ensure that all privately rented residential properties are well managed.

Many landlords do this already, but there are problems in some instances where landlords neglect their management responsibilities.

There are also:

  • a number of well intentioned landlords that aren't aware of their responsibilities and the relevant laws
  • some absentee landlords who may not be aware of problems that are being caused by their tenants

Private sector housing officers will work with you to support you throughout the application process, and to assist you in meeting the criteria in order to be granted a licence.

Does this support and complement other council strategies and initiatives?

The scheme will support our existing strategies and policies relating to:

  • housing
  • private sector enforcement
  • empty homes
  • antisocial behaviour
  • homelessness
  • mandatory licensing scheme

complementcomplement the existing mandatory licensing scheme required by the Housing Act 2004 for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) which are occupied by five or more people.

More information on HMO licensing and standards can be found at www.luton.gov.uk/hmolicensing.

The selective licensing scheme further complements the existing licensing schemes (for HMOs) and supports our ambition to drive up standards in the private rented sector by requiring every privately rented residential property within the designated area (ie including single family dwellings) to be licensed.

In addition whilst we have powers under part one of the Housing Act 2004 to deal with disrepair in privately rented properties these will be supplemented with selective licensing powers under part three of the act.

This is part of the wider housing strategy to tackle housing conditions and drive standards up through intervention and advocacy. We will prioritise enforcement action under part one of the act, whilst ensuring through licence conditions under part three, that the properties are properly managed to prevent further deterioration.

In addition to the selective licensing scheme and together with our partners. we have already introduced some, or are exploring the following, additional measures:

Rogue landlord project

We introduced the Rogue Landlord Project working with the following partners:

We aim to tackle those landlords who choose to make money out of letting out poor accommodation, which is often:

  • pest infested
  • overcrowded
  • dangerous to occupants whose only alternative is to live on the streets

Public Space Protection Order (PSPO)

We have ontroduced a PSPO (in accordance with part four, Antisocial behaviour, crime and policing Act 2014) within the town centre.

This will focus enforcement and education activity on such things as:

  • street drinking
  • litter
  • waste management
  • other aspects of anti-social behaviour

Community Safety Partnership

We work with the following statutory partners and agencies to ensure a joint approach when dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour:

Together we primarily focus on reducing the levels of crime, antisocial behaviour, drug and alcohol problems within the town. Other focuses include:

  • reoffending
  • domestic violence
  • hate crime
  • street sex trade

Homeless prevention strategy

The selective licensing scheme will provide protection for tenants on assured shorthold tenancies in unlicensed properties, as a landlord is not allowed to serve a section 21 notice (notice to quit) under the Housing Act 1988.

We have a dedicated Housing Solutions team to tackle complaints of harassment and illegal evictions from tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.

Luton’s housing strategy

Luton is one of the largest towns in south east England, with a population of 214,700 and 74,000 households (ONS 2015).

Luton is approximately 30 miles north of London but faces many housing problems similar to those experienced by some London boroughs. It is densely populated, facing high demand for housing particular affordable housing, but there is effectively no more land left for development.

All housing development has to take place on land previously built on and there is a shortage of brownfield sites.

Equally, similar to London, Luton experiences high levels of:

  • homelessness
  • poor housing in the private sector
  • high levels of deprivation

We recognise that tackling the housing problems within the town is a fundamental quality of life issue for our communities.

Poor housing and limited access to good quality housing is more than just about bricks and mortar; it has proven links to other social consequences such as:

  • poor educational attainment
  • poor health
  • social exclusion
  • derivation
  • other well-being issues

We haves a number of key strategic housing priorities linking with a selective licensing scheme:

Strategic priority 1: tackling homelessness
Homelessness in Luton is one of the most significant issues we face, with approximately 1,300 households in temporary housing mainly in the private sector. Homeless prevention strategies have been developed to offer advice, guidance and practical support to families facing homelessness.

Timely interventions between tenants and private landlords and with mortgage companies have been extremely beneficial and have helped an increasing number of families avoid homelessness.

Advocacy and representation in court has also been a significant factor in reducing acceptances.

The introduction of a deposit scheme has provided potential homeless households with the ability to influence their own housing solution.

The main cause of homelessness remains loss of accommodation with friends or relatives although in recent years there has been a significant increase in evictions from the private rented sector.

Strategic priority 2: improving housing conditions
The condition of the private rented sector is a concern to us.

We estimate that 23% of the stock is now privately rented and in 2015-16 the Private Sector Housing team received in excess of 2,000 service requests from the public. Many of these related to the condition of their living accommodation (not HMO) and served 640 statutory notices.

The majority of these (379) were in the older, central parts of the town - Biscot, Dallow, High Town and South wards - which account for almost half of the private rented market in Luton) to resolve the issues.

From 2011 to date the Private Sector Housing team has seen an increase in the number of service requests and/or complaints received from tenants living in privately rented accommodation which are not HMOs.

In turn the number of statutory notices served to resolve the issues have increased year on year since 2011.

We have a good track record of enforcing standards in the private rented sector. We seek to resolve matters informally but where the landlord does not cooperate, we will not hesitate to serve statutory notice and undertake works in default and/or prosecute to drive up standards in the private sector.

As well as protecting the occupants from serious injury, improving the quality of the rented accommodation in the town will help to reduce homelessness.

It will also improve neighbourhoods, with likely knock on effects for:

  • crime, such as burglaries
  • neighbourhood nuisance, such as noise
  • accumulations of rubbish in the area

Improving the urban environment has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and resident satisfaction.

Empty homes strategy

Bringing empty properties back into use helps meet the borough’s housing need by increasing the amount of decent housing available. It will also will significantly reduce the opportunities for vandalism, fly tipping and anti-social behaviour.

Unsightly homes can have a depressive effect on neighbouring house prices and also reduce pride in the community, as well as having a direct impact on neighbouring homes through dampness and structural problems.

Bringing an empty home back into use encourages economic vitality and can increase spending in the local economy, whereas unsightly homes deter investment in an area and can lead to decline or area blight.

Removing the negative impact of empty properties helps to boost the wellbeing of communities.

Reduced demand on services such as the Fire and Rescue Service, the Police and council services such as Empty Homes Service and Environmental Health means that resources can be used more effectively elsewhere.

What will the application process involve?

You'll need to submit an online application for each property you own, accompanied by (not limited to):

  • a copy of the current gas safety certificate (if applicable)
  • a copy of the tenancy agreement
  • a copy of the energy performance certificate
  • licence fee

What is the cost of a licence?

The licence fee has not been set. However it is envisaged that it will be similar to that of a HMO licence fee.

What happens if a landlord fails to apply for a licence?

It will be a criminal offence for a landlord to let a property in the designated selective licensing areas without applying for a licence. There are a range of sanctions that could be applied.

These are:

  • prosecution in the magistrates court and an unlimited fine for failure to apply for a licence
  • the imposition of a civil penalty
  • if we’re unable to grant a licence or a licence is revoked, we have the power to make an interim management order (IMO), which will transfer the management of the property to us
  • the landlord will be unable to use section 21 to regain possession of their property
  • for any period where an unlicensed property is rented, an application can be made to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a rent repayment order of up to 12 months

     

Right of appeal

If a landlord feels that we have made a decision that is unfair, in the first instance they should contact the Private Sector Housing team to try to resolve the problem.

If the landlord still feels we have acted unfairly, they could appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (FTPT).

The FTPT is an independent tribunal that can either confirm, amend or overturn our decision.

Monitoring the scheme

We will, from time to time, review the operation of the scheme. We will do this through a series of methods including but not limited to:

  • a private sector stock condition survey
  • monitoring levels of antisocial behaviour
  • regular reporting of prosecutions and enforcement action
  • the number of accredited landlords and agents
  • the number of houses brought up to the required housing standard
  • the number of category one and two hazards removed from licensed properties
  • the number of complaints received regarding poor properties and management
  • the number of complaints regarding illegal eviction and harassment

Housing enforcement

Private sector housing officers will be responsible for the administration of the selective licensing scheme and would be available for help and advice.
They would also be responsible for the inspection of the property and ensuring that management conditions are adhered to.
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 Downloads

 
 

 Contact information

 
Selective licensing
Private Sector Housing Enforcement
1st Floor Annexe
Town Hall , Luton, LU1 2BQ
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