Melcombe Regis Landlord Licensing Scheme
The main aims of a Selective Licensing Scheme consultation document would be to reduce deprivation, crime and anti-social behaviour in the area, by ensuring that all privately rented properties are well managed and provide safe and secure homes for tenants.
To ensure that any scheme is carefully considered and implemented properly, this questionnaire enables us to obtain your views and opinions on the possible development and content of a Selective Licensing Scheme. All responses received will be reviewed by the council and fully considered and will enable us to decide whether to progress with a scheme and if so the final content of that scheme.
What is selective licensing?
The Housing Act 2004 gives councils the power to introduce licensing of privately rented houses within a designated area. The aim of Selective Licensing is to improve conditions, management standards and tenancy practices in the private rented sector to ensure that properties have a positive impact on the area. If introduced, landlords will be required to obtain a licence from the council in order to rent out a property and the licence will have a set of conditions that the licence holder must adhere to.
Where is it proposed that the scheme will operate?
How much will a licence cost?
The proposed standard fee for a licence is £550 to £625. A licence is usually for a 5 year period. The council are considering if discounts to the standard fee should be offered in certain circumstances. Registered charities operating and managing property in the designated area will be exempt from the licensing fees, but not the requirement to be licensed. This will be subject to the consultation responses.
Why is Selective licensing being proposed?
Melcombe Regis is at the vibrant heart of Weymouth. Yet, despite its attributes it is the ward with most evidence of multiple deprivation and is within the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country (Public Health England Local Health Profiles 2015).
It scores high levels of deprivation in; living environment; education; skills and training; health; employment; income and crime, with few improvements since the previous index was published in 2010. The blend of private and rented housing, homes of multiple occupancy; hotels; guesthouses and retail; commercial and leisure activities make up a very diverse area.
Melcombe Regis has suffered from the structural decline of seaside resort towns, low paid seasonal jobs and cheap, poorer quality housing has created a high transient population many with complex needs. A total of 46 per cent of the properties in the ward are privately let and the council wishes to work with landlords to address a range of issues including housing standards and improving community safety.
How will licensing benefit tenants?
Licensing will improve the renting in the area, raising management standards and ensuring proper tenancy arrangements are in place. Tenants and prospective tenants will know that landlords are 'fit and proper' persons who have agreed to abide by the conditions of their licence. All licensed property will be listed on a public register, which tenants can access to check that property they may be renting is licensed.
Will my rent go up?
If you're already renting a property when the scheme comes into force, then licensing should not affect the rent which is contractually agreed between you and your landlord through the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement. It is only after the contract has ended that your landlord can consider whether to increase the rent. We would expect responsible landlords to absorb the cost of licensing as part of operating a rental business. Spread over 5 years the fee is about £2.12 - £2.40 week, and can be offset against the landlord’s business tax costs.
What conditions will be attached to the licence?
There are certain conditions which the council is required to include on a licence and other conditions are at their discretion and dependant on the circumstances of the individual properties. See the draft scheme conditions.
What does being 'fit and proper' mean?
The council will carry out checks to make sure that the person applying for the licence is a "fit and proper person". In deciding whether someone is "fit and proper", the council must take into account, amongst other things:
- any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud
- whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues
- whether the person has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
- whether the person has previously managed HMO's that have broken any approved code of practice
The council may request the proposed licence holder and/or managing agent to submit a Basic Disclosure along with the application. This will be subject to the consultation responses.
Will you penalise those that don't licence?
There will be a targeted approach to enforcement and the council will use a variety of methods to find those that haven't licensed. We will also respond to complaints received about unlicensed property. Where necessary we will seek to prosecute those that continue to refuse to license their property.
A landlord of a property, which is liable to be licensed, and which does not have a licence or a valid temporary exemption notice, commits an offence, which may be punishable by an unlimited fine imposed by the Magistrates Court. Similarly, a landlord not complying with the conditions of the licence, also commits an offence and may be liable for a fine of up to £5,000. Alternatively, under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 the Council has the power to issue a civil penalty of up to £30,000.
In addition, the local authority will be able to apply to the first-tier property chamber for a rent repayment order, in order to recoup any housing benefit the landlord has received during the unlicensed period (maximum 12 months). No offence is committed if there is an outstanding application for a licence or a temporary exemption notice is in force.
How will you know which ones are unlicensed?
Tenants will be able to inform the council if their property is unlicensed. We will also use a variety of methods, working with other partners to seek out unlicensed properties. There will be a public register of licensed property, so it will be easy for people to find out if the property they are concerned about is licensed or not.
Will landlords sell up?
We believe that the fee charged for a licence is affordable and licensing will be a way a landlord can demonstrate the quality of their rental business. It will be the irresponsible landlords who do not keep their properties in good condition and do not manage them properly who are likely to sell up, opening up their properties to people that will manage them well. Licensing will improve the image of the sector as a whole and will help encourage responsible landlords to invest in the area.
Can the Council refuse to licence a property?
Yes. If the licence holder/manager is not a "fit and proper person" and/or if the property cannot meet the conditions set out.
What will happen if the Council refuse to licence a property?
If a landlord fails to comply with the conditions of a licence, or fails to meet the "fit and proper person" criteria, the council can apply to issue an Interim Management Order (IMO), which if granted, allows it to step in and manage the property. In such circumstances the owner keeps their rights as an owner, but does not manage the property. This order can last up to a year until suitable permanent management arrangements can be made. If the IMO expires and there has been no improvement, the Council can apply for a Final Management Order. If granted, this can last up to five years and can be renewed.
Is there a right of appeal against the council’s decision?
An appeal can be made if the council decides to:
- refuse a licence
- grant a licence with conditions
- revoke a licence
- vary a licence
- refuse to vary a licence
An appeal is made to the First-tier tribunal - Property Chamber, usually within 28 days.
How will landlord licensing benefit landlords?
Landlord licensing is intended to benefit landlords in a number of ways. Licensing will help identify irresponsible landlords who impact negatively on the reputation of responsible landlords. It will also assist landlords that are not familiar with all the requirements for establishing a rental business with what they need to do. As part of the licensing regime, the council will provide landlords with a range of support services and training opportunities, in order to ensure that they are able to meet the conditions of their licence, and to assist in the running of their businesses.
In the longer term, licensing is intended to raise the overall management standards in the private rented sector and therefore have a positive effect on rent levels and capital values. This will encourage investment in the area and a thriving private rented market.
Will landlords have to apply for a licence for each property?
Yes, a licence for each property will be required. The council will consult on the option of a reduced fee for landlords with more than one property based on the need to only apply the ‘fit and proper person’ test once. This will be subject to the consultation responses.
Can a licence be transferred?
No, a licence is personal to the licence holder and specific to the property.
Are there any exemptions?
There are a number of circumstances which may mean you do not have to licence a property:
- if it has a HMO Licence (flats within a licensable HMO may still need to be licensed)
- under a Prohibition Order
- a commercial premise o Agricultural tenancy
- owned by a Housing Association o Owned by a public body, for example NHS, Police and Fire Service
- the building is occupied by students and is controlled/managed by a University/College/Specified Person (who conform to an Approved Code of Practice)
- is regulated under other legislation such as care homes or HMO's that fall within (Mandatory Licensing)
- a holiday let
- does not have a tenant at the start date of the designation and remains unoccupied. As soon as they are rented out an application for a licence must be made
- houses covered by a Temporary Exemption Notice under Housing Act 2004 for example where there is a sale agreed to someone who intends to live in the property themselves or the owner is moving back into the property
- house covered by a Management Order under the Housing Act 2004
- occupied under a long term lease of over 21 years (leaseholders)
- houses occupied by the owner and a lodger where the accommodation and amenity such as toilet, bathroom kitchen or living room is shared between the occupier and the landlord/licensor/member of the landlord or licensor's family
- houses occupied by members of the owner's family. A 'member of the
family' is where you live as a couple or one of them is a relative
of the other:
- A 'relative' means parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin, with 'half-blood' relationships these are treated as whole blood relationships. Stepchildren are treated as son or daughter. Proof of relationships, eg. birth/marriage certificates may be required The exemptions listed here are covered by law and not a decision made by the council. For full details of exemptions please refer to The Selective Licensing of Houses (Specified Exemptions) (England) Order 2006
Is VAT payable on the licence fee?
No, VAT is not payable on the licence fee.
Can the cost of the licence be offset against tax?
Yes, the cost of the fee is a legitimate business expense.
How can a landlord be held responsible for the behaviour of tenants?
There is evidence that badly managed, poor quality rental properties encourage anti-social behaviour. The official guidance states:
A landlord has responsibility to ensure persons he has permitted to reside at a property do not cause an annoyance or nuisance to other persons residing in it, or other persons living, working or visiting the immediate neighbourhood. If anti-social behaviour is being carried out within the immediate vicinity of the property and is being caused by the occupiers of it, then it would be reasonable to expect a landlord to ensure that those persons are not conducting themselves in a way that is adversely impacting on the local community.
This applies equally to visitors to the property. Effective management of tenancies ensures that anti-social tenants are given warnings about their conduct. Landlords know what is going on in their rentals and where warnings fail can terminate tenancies for persistent ASB issues. Where appropriate,the council will work with partners to help landlords gather the evidence they need to support the eviction in Court.
This survey closed on Apr 12, 2019. Thank you for your views.
Licensing landlords could improve living conditions
A survey, completed by 520 people earlier this year, revealed support for a scheme to address deprivation and crime within the Melcombe Regis ward of Weymouth. The survey revealed that 60 percent of people thought that the scheme to introduce licensing of private rented property could positively improve Melcombe Regis, while 23 percent thought it wouldn’t. A total of seven per cent did not know and 10 per cent did not have a view.
Under the Licensing Scheme, landlords would have to meet a ‘fit and proper person’ test to qualify for a licence, and have to make sure that their properties are well managed and provide safe, secure accommodation for tenants. The licensing designation will last for a period of five years.
The idea was suggested by the Melcombe Regis Board, which was set-up to tackle inequalities. Life expectancy in Melcombe Regis is 10 years lower than other parts of Dorset and poor quality housing is a factor.
Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Dorset Council Housing Portfolio Holder, said:
“Everyone who rents should be able to live in a decent home. Poor housing affects both physical and mental health.
We cannot ignore the fact that life expectancy in Melcombe Regis is 10 years less than other parts of Dorset, we have to face and tackle these issues, which is why Dorset Council is considering introducing a landlord licensing scheme.
I’d like to make it clear that this scheme is being considered in addition to efforts to deliver more affordable and social housing, it is not instead of. Housing shortages mean tenants need more, not less, protection. Private rented housing is a free market where ‘going rates’ apply and there is no evidence from other areas that costs are passed to tenants.
We recognise that most landlords operate responsibly and offer good standard and we work with many of them through our Landlords Local Authority Partnership.”
Dorset Council works with landlords to improve housing. Current schemes include ‘Heat Melcombe Regis’, which sees free central heating made available as well as other measures to tackle fuel poverty. The council also supports and works with landlords through the Landlords Local Authority Partnership.
If introduced, landlords will be required to apply for a licence and pay a fee set by the council to cover the cost of resourcing the scheme. Dorset Council are not permitted to make a profit from licensing and are obliged to publicly account for the fee income.