Selective Licensing – Our experiences so far

Selective Licensing is currently active in North Manchester for 315 properties, this scheme has been in place since March 2017, and has required private landlords to pay Manchester City Council £750 per property to continue letting their properties – under threat of prosecution under Section 95 of the 2004 Housing Act

As one of North Manchester’s leading letting agents, we actively manage properties within this area and have had first hand experience of the process for Selective Licensing.

We are an ARLA registered agency, we are members of the RLA, NFOPP, the NLA and the Property Ombudsman Service. These are not just fancy letters, they all mean things for the way we operate and the standards to which we keep our properties, these associations in themselves regulate our activity, we hold nationally recognised qualifications in Property Lettings and Management and we closely follow latest legislation and regulations.

We do a good job.

Why then, when we pay all of our regulating bodies an annual fee to audit and monitor our activity are we paying Manchester City Council an additional £750/property to confirm what has already been proven beyond doubt by the highest authority in the Housing Market?

 

What Needed to Change?

Of the 315 properties targeted in Crumpsall, we manage or own around 40 of them so are well aware of the localised and wider issues affecting Crumpsall.

One of our regulatory bodies, the RLA, says this about selective licensing:

“An area may be designated for selective licensing either (i) if the area is (or is likely to be) an area of low housing demand or (ii) the area is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti social behaviour and some or all of the private sector landlords are failing to take action to combat the problem that it will be appropriate for them to take.”

From our experience, Housing Demand in Crumpsall is no lower than other areas in North Manchester, the entire city has high demand for housing, with a booming population and an ever expanding City Centre, affordable and accessible housing is at a high premium. Anti-social behaviour is somewhat out of our remit, we ensure the tenants renting our properties are of good standing, they keep their homes well and they can afford and do pay their rent on time, but anything above neighbour disputes of noise or rubbish, antisocial behaviour is wholly outside our sphere of influence as managing agents or as landlords. The third clause about Private Sector Landlords “failing to take action to combat the problem that it will be appropriate for them to take”, is a little vague, but as ARLA registered agents, we have rules and requirements in place for ensuring we are fit and proper persons to be managing the properties.

Was the problem the landlords, was the problem the demand for property or was the problem Anti-Social Behaviour?

 

Whats the Point?

Every property that we manage in Crumpsall has passed its Licensing Check to date, we had some disputes; at one inspection, that we didn’t attend with the council, they reported we were not eligible for a license for that property because there were no smoke alarms in the property. Immediately we called the tenant, popped round, and as they opened the door, we saw the downstairs smoke alarm in the hallway and within a minute we had checked and verified both smoke alarms in the property were correctly installed and working. When we queried the council, they admitted they had got the property “mixed up with another one”.

At £750 per property and potentially a landlords livelyhood at stake, is this really the kind of mix up that we want to be seeing by Manchester City Council?

Since 2015, If we let a house to someone without smoke alarms, we would be liable for recourse from: ARLA, NLA, RLA, NFOPP, Property Ombudsman and a £5000 civil penalty from the Government. We would be fined, our memberships stripped and we would not be able to operate as an agent.

Whilst its very positive that Manchester City Council are concerned and actively ensuring the safety of its residents, Licensing only applies to the private rented residential sector. Housing Associations/Local Authority housing is exempt, Owner Occupiers are exempt, Student Halls are exempt, live in landlords are exempt and care homes are exempt. So actually, the only properties that are liable are those which are privately rented.

 

Fit & Proper Persons

Selective Licensing essentially is a 5 year certificate to say that you can rent out one particular property. You are checked to be a “Fit and Proper Person”- essentially this is like a Landlords DBS Check, they look for:

  • any criminal convictions to do with violence, drugs, sexual offences or fraud
  • whether we have broken any laws to do with housing or being a landlord
  • whether we have been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
  • whether we have previously managed House(s) in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and broken any approved code of practice.

and they do this for every single property. Just like the ill thought out DBS checks, its a repetition of work and a waste of resources- checking this 40 times in as many days, will not produce any different results, but will keep someone busy and generate £30k of income for the council.

Why are Manchester City Council choosing to line their own pockets at the expense of landlords, agents and ultimately private rented tenants?

 

Do we agree with Selective Licensing?

Yes and no.

We recognise, accept and embrace the need to raise housing standards across the city. We absolutely agree that the rogue landlords and those providing housing that is not fit for habitation need to be cracked down on and dragged to standard.

But, we do not agree that reputable landlords, agents and those working well within the law should be further penalised to make up for the failings of others. Especially when Selective Licensing has been a scheme run in the past and was proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was at best ineffective and a major contributing factor to increasing rental rates in an area.

 

How Could it Improve?

The same scheme has, this week, been rolled out in areas of Rusholme and Moss Side, although Crumpsall was a “pilot”, it seems no changes have been made to the way the system runs and no lessons learned from implementing the initial wave of Licenses.

As the regulations and controls for rogue landlords are already in place by governing bodies, why hasn’t Manchester City Council considered teaming up with reputable and regulated agents, offered an affordable and mutually cooperative package for Licensing to ensure standards are raised and upheld by agents, and Landlords who self manage then have the option to be Licensed and monitored by the council OR use an already licensed agent who then takes liability for maintaining standards.

With over 60% of Manchester Private Rented sector Landlords already using an agent, this would give the landlords choice, the local agents an opportunity to lead the raising of standards, save the council resources AND ultimately prevent the entire burden of the cost of licensing ultimately landing on the tenants lap.

Right now, the way this scheme works, will do nothing to help tenants with affordability.

 

 

 

 

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