Government promise review of local authority property licensing schemes

Monday, April 8th, 2024 - London Property Licensing

In a letter that was leaked to the media, Jacob Young MP, Minister for Levelling Up has written to all Conservative MPs setting out a range of proposals to ensure the Renters Reform Bill strikes the right balance between delivering security for tenants and fairness for landlords. 

In the letter, sent on 27 March 2024, the Minister commits to undertaking a review of local authority licensing schemes. This is in response to measures in the Bill to introduce a new property portal, which is effectively a national register of landlords.

Whereas it was assumed any such review would be restricted to selective licensing, the Minister has gone further by saying the review will cover selective licensing and licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). 

This implies the review will encompass mandatory HMO licensing (here), additional licensing (here) and selective licensing (here). The Minister has said the aim of the review is to reduce the burden on landlords.

This announcement is likely to cause considerable uncertainty for local authorities up and down the country who are currently developing, or consulting on, new licensing schemes. 

In the short term, it is unclear what impact that might have on local authorities awaiting approval from the Secretary of State to implement large selective licensing schemes.  Large selective licensing schemes covering over one fifth of the council’s area, or one fifth of private rented homes, can only be implemented with government approval.

The complex array of licensing schemes is not easy to follow. Research by London Property Licensing (2024) found there are currently 42 additional and selective licensing schemes operating in London. The London Property Licensing website provides the only comprehensive free-to-access directory of licensing schemes covering every London borough and receives thousands of page views every week.

Richard Tacagni, MD, London Property Licensing commented:

Exactly who will lead this property licensing review, it’s scope and timescale, remain unclear. If this is a comprehensive review, it seems highly unlikely the process will be completed and recommendations made before the general election. 

Anyone thinking property licensing is about to be abolished will be sorely disappointed. Having said that, it does present an opportunity to improve the disjointed licensing framework, standardise licensing conditions and slow the upward trajectory of licensing fees which risk becoming a barrier to landlords entering the market. 

As a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and specialist in property licensing for the last 20 years, I look forward to engaging constructively in this government review.

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