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Councils in the UK could be prevented from introducing selective licensing for private sector landlords unless there are specific reasons for doing so.

The Department of Local Government and Communities believes that for an area to be designated as subject to selective licensing it must contain a high proportion of properties in the private rented sector, in relation to the total housing accommodation in that area.

It has announced proposals that would mean that if an area has one or more of four specific conditions, the authority may consider introducing licensing. These include hazards caused by poor housing conditions, an influx of migration and if the area is suffering from a high level of deprivation which affects a significant number of the occupiers of properties.

In addition it can be granted if the area suffers from high levels of crime. If the local authority and the local police together say that licensing may contribute to controlling or reducing crime, a licensing system could be considered.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) has welcomed the proposals at a time when there is unease about a number of councils introducing their own licensing schemes without providing evidence that they are needed.

An example is Liverpool City council which requires landlords to pay upwards of £400, from next month for a five year licence. Applicants will be checked to see if they are ‘a fit and proper person’ to be a landlord.

Landlords will also have to meet health and safety guidelines and be seen to be keeping the exterior in a good state of repair and dealing with complaints about anti-social behaviour caused by tenants.

Those without a licence could be fined up to £5,000 and see their properties taken over by the council until an alternative licensed landlord is found. But the NLA believes this is heavy handed.

‘The change in the legislation is welcome as it stops local councils introducing unnecessary borough wide licensing schemes, without an evidence base,’ said NLA chief executive officer Richard Lambert.

‘Instead it pushes councils towards resolving specific issues in targeted local areas by outlining the key criteria by which schemes should be implemented and judged. We hope to see this progress before the dissolution of parliament later this month,’ he added.

The borough of Redbridge in London has issued proposals to introduce a £500 five year licence for private landlords. It says it will improve the standard of living by providing tenants with the same living conditions as other households and help to maintain a landlord’s register, making it easier to notify landlords and letting agents of their responsibilities, improve their reputation, provide support, reduce anti-social behaviour and fly tipping, and build an area that would be safer and more appealing to live in.

In Hastings landlords are challenging plans by the council to introduce a £400 licence and say that there is little evidence that such a scheme is needed. Last December a landlord in Enfield successfully challenged the local council’s plans which resulted in the scheme not going ahead.

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