The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has issued the final report from its independent review of the use and effectiveness of selective licensing (SL).
The purpose of the review was to assess how SL has been used as a policy tool and whether it has delivered the intended outcomes. In summary, the review concluded that SL can be effective and positive however when implemented in isolation the effectiveness is limited. It appears that SL is more successful if it is part of a wider coherent initiative.
The report is some 228 pages, so we have taken the liberty of summarising the recommendations. We do also suggest a complete read by agents and landlords who manage or own properties that are in a designated area.
Selective licensing should be retained but could be improved through the implementation of the following recommendations (this is not an exhaustive list):
- If a property on inspection is discovered to have property issues such as for example not fit for human habitation, enforcement officers should be entitled to take direct action;
- Best practice/guidance should be issued by the government for local authorities.
- The government should consider adding to the specific exemptions for SL, such as purpose-built student accommodation;
- The government should consider a national registration scheme for landlords;
- The government should explore alternatives to Judicial Review in the High Court as the primary method of challenging a designation;
- The government should consider reviewing requirements for advertising designations to ensure they are appropriate;
- The government should consider permitting local authorities to include only those questions in a licence application which are relevant to the local scheme;
- Planning law breaches should be included in the range of offences which can trigger a landlord failing the ‘fit and proper person’ test;
- The government should consider expanding the range of data local authorities can access to gather intelligence about the private rental sector.
Some of the recommendations are business as usual in that they propose that SL should continue. However, some are fairly radical and unlikely to be seen with much favour by agents or landlords. A national registration scheme for landlords has been proposed before and does exist in Wales and Scotland. It is therefore perfectly possible England will follow suit but perhaps not in 2019. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the review accepts that local authorities are conscious that their fee structures could fall foul of the decision in Gaskin. The review does not indicate how this problem is to be solved but we expect that at some juncture it will need to be addressed especially given that SL is here to stay.