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Labour council proposes controversial city-wide licensing scheme

Oxford council, which has 49 per cent of its housing stock in the private rental sector, is starting a formal consultation on a new licensing regime for the city.

In January this year the Labour-led council said it wanted all private landlords to register with the city council.

From next week it is setting out a formal consultation process on how to achieve that, including an extension to its current additional licensing scheme for HMOs and the introduction of a new selective licensing scheme to cover all homes in the private rented sector.


In 2011 Oxford was the first council in England to introduce a city-wide scheme that required every HMO to be licensed. The current scheme is due to expire in January next year and the consultation is required as a condition of renewing the scheme for another five years.

Government rules allow councils to introduce selective licensing if 20 per cent of homes in an area are privately rented. If the consultation starting next week decides in favour of selective licensing, the final scheme will need to be approved by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The council claims that a recent review of housing conditions suggests that a fifth of the 30,000 homes in Oxford’s private rented sector have a serious hazard. 

“While many private landlords are good and responsible landlords, unfortunately we know that this isn’t true in all cases. Our research indicates that around a fifth of homes in the private rented sector have a serious hazard. We want to deliver on our plans to protect tenants, drive up standards and crack down on rogue landlords, which is why we are looking to extend licensing from HMOs to cover all private rented homes” says councillor Alex Hollingsworth, who is responsible for housing.

“Consultation is the first step in this process, and this will be carried out independently on our behalf…Housing is a serious issue in Oxford and we want to capture and reflect the views of all stakeholders before taking further action to improve our private rented sector.”

A bid to secure city-wide private rental sector licensing by another Labour council - Liverpool - met opposition from MHCLG some months ago, and a smaller version of the proposal is now out for consultation in that city.

  • girish mehta

    So 51% socially owned , the same standard should be applied to social housing and see how many substandard properties they have . money grabbing politics of envy practice here. In the end the tenants pay for it.

  • icon

    Soon you will need a licence for wearing a wrist watch, or having flowers in your garden. This is nothing to do with standards this is just a plain and simple cash grab. Legalised theft.

  • David Porter

    "...around a fifth of homes in the private rented sector have a serious hazard... which is why we are looking to extend licensing from HMOs to cover all private rented homes.” I guess that makes sense in council land. Why not just deal with the fifth of homes which they claim to already KNOW have serious hazards, instead of charging the other 80% of "good and responsible landlords" a licence fee? It couldn't possibly be because there's no money in it, could it?

    Graham Dickaty

    Because any kind of targeted measure on the part of government, local or central - and in any sector, is too much like hard work and doesn't raise enough money or votes?

    Matthew Payne

    I am suprised they have the addresses of all the rented propeties in the city. I would also like to understand how they conducted their review of these 30,000 homes as well in terms of manpower and also reliability. I would imagine that's a tall order at the best of times, let alone when many of the Councils staff have been furloughed, many departments closed, with those remaining no doubt helping support people during the lockdown.

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    • 07 September 2020 09:55 AM

    No way does Oxford Council know where all rented properties are.

    If they did then they wouldn't need any licensing scheme.
    They would just need to inspect each property.

    That would take about 30 years with the current staff in enforcement!!


    I believe there *is* now a record (or at least the serious beginnings of a database) that was compiled in secret by Govt. I think the longer term intention is to allocate every property a reference number and log All GSCs, EPCs, EICRs etc.

    Matthew Payne

    Yes UPRNs which in years to come will become like a digital passport for a property, all history linked to it in one place whether tenancies, compliance, sales, planning, utilities etc etc. Different organisations will have different levels of access. A dream for HMRC and councils. Going to take a long time to slowly pull all the data together before people can rely on running a comprehensive report, no different than the far more simple ambition of having an EPC for every property. We are 12 years into that ongoing project.

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    • 07 September 2020 11:08 AM


    Will this mean that also checks are made with lenders that CTL has been given?
    Will the correct insurance be checked upon?
    Will it be checked with lenders that the tenant types are not in breach of mortgage conditions?

    If not then this will still mean fraudster LL letting.
    Remember a fraudster LL could be one who is now letting to a HB tenant when lender conditions specifically prohibit this.


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