Government review highlights lack of data on landlords

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Landlord licensing:

With the doubling in the size of the private rented sector
since 2002, the sector now houses 19% of all households. This industry requires
considerable effort on the part of local authorities to maintain the housing standards
to which tenants are entitled, and as of 1st of January 2019, 44
local authorities operate selective licencing schemes.

Licences specify conditions to which the landlord must
comply, and the authority inspects and enforces compliance. The licencing schemes
are funded by landlord fees covering the initial application process and ongoing

A recent review of selective landlord licensing, commissioned
by government, concludes that a lack of data on the sector hinders enforcement,
and that this could be remedied by having a national landlord register.

The review, which was carried out by Opinion Research
Services, described the selective licensing scheme as an “effective policy
tool� but identifies many weaknesses and suggests that a national landlord
register could provide access to more data which would complement the various schemes.

A national landlord register would “provide easy access to
data� on which to base decisions as to who should have a licence.

Such a register would mirror the situation in Scotland were
a landlord registration scheme has been in operation for some time. Without such
as register the report argues, it is not possible to identify unlicensed
properties and it would give a “far more accurate enumeration of the private
rented sector at the planning stage�.

New regulations are already planned for letting agents, so
they may be out of the scope of any such reform, but by having all private
landlords register, and the report suggests, there is a “significant appetite
for such an initiative�, selective licencing and enforcement could be far more

Several other recommendations emanate from the report, of
which these are a few, see the link below:

  • Government should consider issuing best practice/guidance
    as appropriate to support local authorities and improve the implementation of
  • local authorities should charge for the
    enforcement element of the licence fee reflecting remainder of the licnence designation
    period on a pro-rata basis.
  • mandatory licences should be amended to include a
    requirement on property condition and the absence of serious hazards
  • A “light touchâ€� renewals process would be
    introduced for existing schemes.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
spokesman said:

“Select licensing has made a real difference to areas across
the country. This report further demonstrates that with proper planning,
consultation and implementation, these schemes can make a real difference to
the quality of homes people live in.

“The report does highlight some important matters which
require further consideration, and we will work with the sector to continue to
understand their concerns before responding fully.�

However, John Stewart, policy manager for the Residential
Landlords Association (RLA), has argued that such a register would not work in
the way this report envisages.

He has been quoted as saying:

“Ministers have repeatedly made clear that a national
register of landlords would become an unnecessary and costly additional layer
of bureaucracy.

“We agree. All it would become is a list of good landlords
which brings us no closer to finding the crooks that operate under the radar.

“Selective licensing has become a replacement for lost
central Government funding and provides no assurances to tenants about the
quality of accommodation.

“Properties do not need to be inspected before a landlord is
given a licence and the RLA has found that many councils are charging
eye-watering sums of money for almost nothing in return.

“Local authorities need the will and the resources to put
real effort into finding the criminal landlords who never come forward to make
themselves known.

“That means using a range of information they can already
access including council tax returns, information on tenancy deposits and
benefit data to root out the minority of landlords who bring the sector into

An Independent Review of the Use and Effectiveness of Selective Licensing

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