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Selective licensing overhaul needed quickly, government told

The government is being urged to speed up the release details of the future it sees for selective licensing following revelations about current high rates of non-compliance.

The call comes from Neil Cobbold, the chief operating officer of PayProp UK, an automated transaction and reconciliation platform. 

Cobbold says recent research from safeagent, conducted by London Property Licensing, reveals over 130,000 unlicensed rental properties in the capital alone that should be licensed under either a selective, additional or mandatory House in Multiple Occupation scheme - but are not.


The non-compliance rate for HMO and additional licensing schemes is presently 75 per cent while 15 per cent of unlicensed properties should come under a selective licensing scheme. 

Exacerbating the problem is safe agent’s estimate that 40 per cent of boroughs still rely on paper applications which create a backlog.

"There is a clear problem in London, which has the UK's most complex licensing system. That being said, non-compliance with licensing schemes will be a problem for local authorities across many parts of the country" he says. 

"To have so many unlicensed properties in the capital suggests the existing framework is not effective. With many paper applications outstanding, one simple way of improving efficiency would be for more councils to adopt online application processes to speed things up and reduce the backlog” according to Cobbold, a long-standing advocate of more PropTech across the industry.

Earlier this year, the government commissioned an independent review of selective licensing schemes with the results published in June.

The findings put forward a number of recommendations, including an easier renewal process for existing licensing schemes, the introduction of a landlords register, changes to the way licensing proposals are consulted upon and streamlining the application process.

It was reported at the time that the government 'broadly welcomed' the suggestions, but it is yet to produce an official response on the review.

"The government said that it would ‘work with the sector to continue to understand concerns before responding fully’. This research shows a snapshot of the issues in the capital and should reinforce that a response and set of actions is needed sooner rather than later" Cobbold explains.

"Although many of the problems raised in safeagent's investigation focus on HMO and additional licensing, any changes to the selective system pursued by the government could have an impact on the way the whole licensing process works in the future."

Cobbold says the lack of enforcement of legislation remains one of the biggest challenges facing the lettings sector.

With many landlords failing to licence their properties, letting agencies can provide an invaluable service in guiding them through the process, Cobbold says.

"Some landlords will be deliberately avoiding their licensing obligations, but the majority will be non-compliant because they are not aware of exactly what is required of them.Professional letting agents can prove their worth to landlords by helping them to remain compliant while also contributing towards raising rental property standards" he concludes.

  • Phil Priest

    Why shuldnt every BTL or HMO or any property that is rented require a license to rent out a property?
    after all we are providing a roof over the heads of others who have no permission to alter/improve/control the state of the property they live in.

    A minimum of E on EPC's is a good start, lets set a bench mark and improve the standard.

    • 26 October 2019 17:47 PM

    Totally agree.
    Get rid of all council licensing schemes to be replaced by ONE very cheap National LL Licensing Scheme.
    But for obvious reasons no Govt would want such a scheme.
    There would be mass homelessness resulting from National LL licensing.
    Mostly due to millions of properties being unable to meet relevant licensing requirements.
    Having such a scheme would of course create totally fair competition but at the expense of mass homelessness.
    So this is why there will remain the mish-mash of ridiculous and expensive council licensing schemes.
    There would also be the situation where many LL wouldn't qualify for licensing.
    Just consider as one example of all the LL letting to DSS tenants in fraudulent breach of their mortgage conditions.
    They maybe silly conditions and many lenders are removing them.
    But where still in place a LL should be complying with them.

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    Just a sales - money - making opportunity being seized upon by a letting agent who can o longer get money from Tenants

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    • 27 October 2019 21:06 PM

    Desperate measures for some LA who are seeing their business viability disappear before their eyes.
    Good thing really the LA industry needs a shakeout to get rid of the deadwood leaving behind far fewer but far more viable LA.
    That has to be good news though obviously not for those LA no longer able to remain viable concerns
    It happened with IFA who saw 90% leave the industry.
    Far fewer but larger LA is the only way to survive.
    One large LA per town is all that is needed.

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    What will happen when there are fewer LA.. prices rocket as little competition!

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    • 28 October 2019 00:39 AM

    Fewer more competent LA will result in possibly more LL using them.
    Perhaps 2 LA per town then!!
    More LA doesn't equal a better or more competitive service.
    LA need to be viable.
    Having fewer of them leaves the remaining more viable.
    LL want viable LA!


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