You may have heard the term ‘selective licensing’, but if you’re a private landlord and you aren’t entirely sure what it’s all about, you could be missing some vital information. Read on to get the full lowdown on selective licensing, and where the boundaries are drawn in Bristol.
What is selective licensing?
In the UK, councils can designate areas of a city to be placed under selective licensing; this means that all privately rented properties within that area need to have an official license. These licenses are acquired by the landlord or manager of the property (whoever receives the rent), and each property must have its own individual license.
In order to get a selective license, a property must meet certain standards. These will vary area by area, but there are some basic requirements that landlords must always meet, such as being able to provide a valid gas safety certificate and prove that electrical appliances and smoke alarms are safe and working. You can find more details about these essential requirements in Shelter’s Good Practice Guide for selective licensing.
What is the purpose of the license?
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, selective licensing was originally introduced to combat significant problems in urban areas, such as consistently poor property management, high levels of anti-social behaviour and crime, and low demand for housing.
While the bodies behind the scheme state that selective licensing is there to tackle bad landlords and poor quality housing, many opponents claim that the licenses only exist for money-making purposes, and selective licensing has been a source of much controversy ever since its introduction in 2010. However, since having a license is now a legal requirement, you could land yourself with a hefty fine if you are found to be renting without one.
Do I need a license?
A privately rented property within a designated area requires a license when the whole of the house is occupied either under a single tenancy, or when two or more tenancies are contained within it (for example, in bedsits). There are some circumstances under which a property can be exempted – for example, when a property is licensed as having a business or agricultural tenancy, or when the property is for students and is controlled by a university. You can get a comprehensive list of exemptions from the Residential Landlords Association.
In Bristol, selective licensing applies in Eastville and St. George, as well as in the Stapleton Road area. You can see whether your property falls under this remit by looking at the Bristol Council map (the pink shaded areas come under selective licensing). If you are unsure about whether a property you own falls within a selective licensing area, check with your local council or ask a local lettings agency.
What does it cost?
Since it is up to individual councils to set the costs for licenses in their areas, prices can vary around the country, although guidelines dictate that councils can only charge fees proportionate to their costs and cannot make a profit. To find out how much you can expect to pay in your area, check your local council’s website.
Within Bristol’s St George and Eastville licensing schemes, the costs may vary depending on when your property has been let. An application to license a property that was let before 1st July 2016, or an application made within 28 days of a property being let for the first time, will cost £470. Meeting certain requirements – such as providing gas safety and energy performance certificates – can knock £100 off that price. If your property is found to be unlicensed, the license will cost you £770 upfront, without including any fines for non-compliance.
How do I get a license?
In order to get a license you must apply through your local council; in Bristol the deadline for applications is 30th September 2016. Any applications that are not made before then could incur extra costs, both in terms of a higher license fee and potential fines for having an unlicensed property.
To make your application, contact your local council. Eastville and St. George landlords can apply for a license through the Bristol Council website, and if you have any difficulties you can book onto one of the Council’s support sessions for landlords. When it comes to selective licensing, it always pays to be prepared.
Interested in letting out a property in Bristol? Contact Gough Quarters today to find out more.
Eastville Park, Bristol by Synwell on Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License
Bristol Council House by NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Man signing contract courtesy of Pixabay