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Written by Matthew Lane

Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, recently announced reforms of Selective Licensing, which will restrict local decision-making powers. The changes, which will mean that local councils no longer have the clout to licence landlords across a whole borough or city, are to come into being on 1 April 2015.
For the last five years local councils have had the ability to license landlords across an entire borough or jurisdiction in an attempt to battle problems such as anti-social behaviour in so-called ‘hotspot areas’. Subsequently, this has led to a sharp rise in the amount of new schemes being introduced.
Now, however, councils will need government consent before implementing a licensing scheme if they plan to license a large area or proportion of the market - likely to be above 20% of either the geographical area covered by the council or the local private rented sector (PRS).
This decision comes about after extensive and continued lobbying efforts by the National Landlord Association (NLA) since 2010, which included a NLA published report on the state of landlord licensing across the country, released in February. The report highlighted a correlation between the political control of a council and their tendency to license landlords. In addition, the report pointed to a boom in the number of blanket licensing schemes since 2010 but also a lack of enforcement actions being taken by local councils.
“We’ve argued solidly since 2010 that councils have been abusing their power to push through blanket licensing schemes,” Richard Lambert, CEO at the NLA, commented.  
“This announcement means that if a council intends to licence a large proportion of its housing it will first need to show the case stands up to independent scrutiny.”
He added: “Many local councils won’t like this decision one bit because until now they’ve been their own judges, and the only way for landlords to challenge them has been through the difficult and complex route of judicial review.”
He said landlords were fed up of being unfairly targeted and made responsible for issues such as anti-social behaviour. When, in reality, they have little effective control over the issue, other than by eviction. “Hopefully this now means that councils who are serious about tackling poor property standards and anti-social behaviour will first look to the extensive existing legal powers they already have to combat the issues,” Lambert concluded. 


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