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.
The Council has consulted on whether to introduce Selective Licensing in Hastings. It was decided by Cabinet on the 30 March 2015, that a Selective Licensing Scheme shall be implemented in the seven wards of Braybrooke, Castle, Central St Leonards, Gensing, Old Hastings, Ore and Tressell. 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.
The licensing scheme commenced on 26 October 2015. Applications will not be accepted prior to this date.
Where will the scheme operate?
The scheme operates in the wards of Braybrooke, Castle, Central St Leonards, Gensing, Old Hastings, Ore and Tressell.
I have lodgers living with me in my house/flat, do I need a selective licence?
You don't need a selective licence if you let rooms in your home to lodgers who are living with you* but, if you have 4 or more lodgers, your property will be an HMO, and may require either additional or mandatory licensing. Please contact us for further advice if you let rooms in your home to 4 or more lodgers.
*In this context, 'lodger' means a person who is living with a resident landlord in their home, and who shares their facilities.
How much will a licence cost?
A licence is usually for a 5 year period.
The standard fee for a licence is £665.
Registered Charities operating and managing property in the designated area to be exempt from the licensing fees, but not the requirement to be licensed.
Can I Pay by instalments?
No, there is no option to pay by instalments. The licence fee must be paid in one payment.
Can I offset the cost of the licence against my tax?
Yes, the cost of the fee is a legitimate business expense.
What is the application process?
The Council is working towards an online application and payments system, which will be in place before the scheme begins. This will also cover other forms of licensing that are in operation in the borough, ie. additional and mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). In some circumstances further information may be required before a licence can be processed, eg. informed consent forms for people that are named in licence applications, joint freeholders.
This system will allow applicants to enter the relevant address details and in turn will be informed whether their property requires a licence and what type. The system will not allow an incomplete application. It will calculate the fee and ask for payment.
The application is online - what if I don't a have a computer?
Most libraries and Hastings Tourist Information Centre have PCs for use to the public free of charge. Alternatively you can ring us on 01424 451031 or email email@example.com and depending on your circumstances we may be able to make an appointment for you to visit our offices so we can complete the application with you. We have now introduced a cost for this service of £100. This also applies if you are unable to make an on line payment.
What if I am having problems completing my on line application?
Please contact us on 01424 451031 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org so we can offer you assistance.
Do I have to apply for a licence for each property?
Yes, you will need a licence for each 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
- Agricultural tenancy
- Owned by a Housing Association
- 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.
I'm intending to stop letting my flat/house in the very near future, or I'm in the process of selling it with vacant possession, do I still need to apply for a licence?
If a landlord or person in control of a licensable property intends to stop renting it to tenants, and can give clear evidence of this, they can apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice.
If the Council decides to grant an exemption notice, this will last for a maximum of three months, and ensures that a property in the process of being taken out of the licensing criteria does not need to be licensed.
If the situation is not resolved within this period, then a second (and final) Temporary Exemption Notice can be issued. When this Notice runs out the property must either be licensed, become subject to an Interim Management Order, or cease to be a licensable property.
Why has the Council exempted housing association property (social housing)?
The Council hasn't exempted social housing. The law itself exempts social housing property from licensing. Social housing is regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency.
Who should be the licence holder?
The Council can only grant a licence to someone who is in control of the property. It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that an application for a licence is made for their property; however they may not necessarily be the licence holder.
Landlords who manage their properties directly should apply for a licence in their own right. Where a managing agent is used, the managing agent could apply for the licence and the landlord will need to provide information about the property and give their consent.
Where a manager is employed, financial arrangements must be in place to ensure that any works deemed necessary for the proper management and maintenance of the property can be carried out.
When a limited Company is the licence holder, then the company secretary or other authorised signatory should be the licence holder.
You must be a resident in the UK to be a licence holder.
Can a licence be transferred?
No, a licence is personal to the licence holder and specific to the property.
What if I wish to change my agent and they are the licence holder?
Licences are non-transferable. If a new licence holder is to be introduced then a new licence will have to be applied and paid for.
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:
What methods of payment are there?
Payments for the licence(s) will be made at the end of the application process and will be taken electronically.
Can I get a refund on my selective licence?
We will give you a refund if:
- You make a duplicate application
- You make an application for an exempted property by mistake
We will not give you a refund if:
- We refuse your application
- You withdraw your application
- We revoke (take away) your licence
- You are refused planning permission for a mandatory House of Multiple Occupation (HMO)
What happens if I don't get a licence?
If you don't apply for a licence and continue to rent your property then you will be committing a criminal offence. If convicted you could be subject to an unlimited fine with additional penalties should you not take steps to license and the Council can apply for a Rent Repayment Order to claim back any Local Housing Allowance paid to the tenant for up to 12 months.
After the scheme comes into force, you cannot legally evict your tenant (Section 21 Notice), until the property is licensed.
What happens if licence conditions are breached?
If a licence is issued and the conditions are subsequently breached, this could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 for each breach. Breaching the licence conditions could also lead to the revocation of the licence and unless a suitable alternative licence holder could be found, the Council may take over the management of the property by issuing an Interim Management Order (IMO).
Will my property(s) be inspected?
Yes, the Council is aiming to inspect every property that has a licence. In most circumstances this will happen after a licence has been issued. When the property is inspected depends on the level of risk associated with the property. A higher risk property will be inspected sooner than a lower risk one. The level of risk,depends on previous history, condition, management, etc.
What does being 'fit and proper' mean?
The Council will need to apply a test to see if you are suitable to hold the licence. We will look at your honesty, integrity and reputation and to matters including but not limited to those set out in the following list which may have arisen either in the UK or elsewhere. Conviction for a criminal offence will not automatically mean an application will be rejected. Matters that will be looked at include:
- Whether the you have been convicted of any criminal offence including, where relevant, any spent convictions excepted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. Particular consideration will be given to offences of dishonesty, fraud, violence, harassment, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering or offences of a sexual nature or of offences relating to child exploitation or abuse, whether or not these offences were in the United Kingdom, and Housing Act 2004 offences or any breaches of provisions of housing or landlord and tenant law.
- Whether you are currently the subject of any criminal proceedings
- Whether you have been subject to any adverse finding or any settlement in civil proceedings
- Whether you have practiced unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origin, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief in connection with carrying out business
- Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business has been convicted of any criminal offence including, where relevant, any spent convictions excepted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975
- Particular consideration will be given to offences of dishonesty, fraud, violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering or offences of a sexual nature or of offences relating to child exploitation or abuse, whether or not these offences were in the United Kingdom, and Housing Act 2004 offences or any breaches of provisions of housing or landlord and tenant law
- Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business is currently the subject of any criminal proceedings
- Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business has been subject to any adverse finding or any settlement in civil proceedings
- Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business has practiced unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origin, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief in connection with carrying out business
If you apply and do not meet the fit and proper person criteria, you will need to consider someone else to manage the property for you that will meet the test, eg. a reputable managing agent.
Apply for a Fit and Proper Person certificate
Can I appeal against council's decision?
Yes, you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal within 28 days if you disagree with any of our decisions. You may appeal if the council decides to:
- Refuse a licence
- Grant a licence with conditions
- Revoke a licence
- Vary a licence
- Refuse to vary a licence
Will you penalise those that don't licence?
There will be a targeted approach to enforcement and we 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.
How will you know which ones are unlicensed?
Tenants will be able to inform us 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 Hastings.
How do landlords benefit from licensing?
Licensing will help identify irresponsible landlords who impact negatively on the reputation of responsible landlords. It will assist landlords that are not familiar with all the requirements for establishing a rental business with what they need to do. It will raise conditions, management standards, improve tenancy arrangements and help tackle Anti Social Behaviour.
Can I get training in having a rental business?
There are a number of organisations that offer training for landlords and we will also be offering training events.
How can I be held responsible for the behaviour of my 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. The Council will work with partners to help landlords gather the evidence they need to support the eviction in Court.
How do tenants benefit from licensing?
Licensing will improve the renting in Hastings by improving conditions, 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 find out whether the property is licensed and will therefore be able to refuse to rent properties that aren't.
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, much in the same way a food business would have a cost associated with registering their business. The cost is not unreasonable and if a responsible landlord applies within the first 6 months of the scheme, the cost will be as low as £150 or £2.50 per month over 5 years and the cost of the licence fee can be offset against the business tax costs.
Some landlords may subsequently increase rents to recover the costs of the licence but this will be a business decision for them to make.
My landlord said they will evict me, what should I do?
Once the scheme comes into force, it will be illegal for your landlord to evict you simply because they do not wish to obtain a licence for a property that requires one. Additionally, if you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement then your landlord legally must follow the correct procedure before evicting you. If your landlord is threatening you with eviction please contact us:
Please read 'Are Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) covered by Selective Licensing' for further information.
What happens in other Council areas?
Each Council is responsible for deciding whether to have licensing schemes in their areas. If you have properties in more than one Council area and they have licensing in place, you will need to apply to the Council the property is in.
Why do you contact my mortgage company?
The Housing Act 2004 stipulates we inform any other party that has an interest in the property. This will include your mortgage company as they have a right to know about the application. It is unlikely to affect our decision to license your property.
Am I entitled to a refund?
You will only be entitled to a refund if:
- Your property was not licensable at the time of application (eg it falls under one of the exemptions)
- You make a duplicate application
You will NOT be entitled to a refund if:
- Your property was licensable at the time of application
- You subsequently sell the property
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