Mandatory licensing was introduced by the Housing Act 2004 and came into force on 6th April 2006, to improve standards in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s); it is mandatory in HMO’s where there are 3 or more storeys and are occupied by 5 or more tenants forming two or more households
Selective licensing (referred to as additional licensing in the 2005 summary)
Selective licensing is for areas decided by the local authority and is used to tackle anti-social behaviour and low demand for properties in specific areas. This is not popular, landlords arguing that the good are hit with the same penalties as the bad in that all must pay a hefty licensing fee. When originally introduced, a selective licensing area had to be approved by the Secretary of State and a good case made for it. In 2010 this was changed and local authorities could designate a licensing area anywhere they chose. This led to Borough-wide licensing schemes in several areas. Another change was put in place from 1st April 2015 and local authorities must now make an application to the Secretary of State for any selective licensing schemes which exceed either 20% of an authority’s geographic area or 20% of the private sector in that area.
In both Mandatory and Selective licensing schemes, failure to obtain a license for a property that should be licensed, without a reasonable excuse for doing so, is a criminal offence; it attracts very heavy penalties and the landlord would not be allowed to use a s.21 to end the tenancy.
- These are voluntary schemes run by local authorities for reputable landlords; there is not usually a cost, though some works may be requested to bring properties up to the standard they have set. This could mean a professional electrical safety certificate (which is not yet a legislative requirement) and sight of the safety certificates which are a mandatory requirement. These schemes can offer good support to landlords, help with referencing and tenancy documents. These schemes are favoured by the Government as they seem to establish better relationships than had previously existed between local authorities and private landlords.
Houses in Multiple Occupation
Houses in Multiple Occupation are subject to licensing if they are 3 stories or more and are let to 5 or more people who make up 2 or more households. Local authorities can decide to extend licensing to other HMO’s that would not otherwise meet the criteria, if they feel this is necessary. All landlords should be in contact with the local authority to ensure their properties meet the standards required of them.
Whilst self-contained properties will always attract their own council tax bill, where there are shared facilities, the landlord would expect to pay the Council Tax on the whole building. Some local authorities are now seeking to rate even a bed-sit as an individual unit. Since April 2014, local authorities have been required to devise local council tax schemes; there is no uniform manner in which authorities have decided what discounts (if any) they will apply for void/refurbishment periods. Check with the local authority what has to be paid and when.
Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
There is no mandatory requirement for safety testing of any of the electrical system but there is a duty of care on all landlords to ensure that the system/equipment is safe.
Landlords should do a careful inspection as:
- Live parts should not be accessible;
- Leads should not be worn or frayed;
- Correct plugs should be fitted and correctly fused (electrical appliances now will have fitted plugs);
- Avoid trailing leads and multiple plug adaptors as they are a safety hazard;
- Plug sockets should be firmly fixed to the wall or skirting;
- Moving parts should be serviced;
- Washing machines and cookers should be serviced and in good working order;
- Microwaves and cookers should be clean and free from corrosion
- Any major electrical work should be notified to the local authority. Work must be done by a member of one of the certified bodies, for example NICEIC, who must comply with BS7671.
Few landlords now provide other than basic furnishings, but if any portable electrical appliances are included in the tenancy, then Portable Appliance Testing is necessary.