Selective licensing is a contentious topic for many landlords. We receive a number of queries from our members about why it’s being introduced in their area and what the National Landlords Association’s (NLA) position is.
In a three-part series, Gavin Dick from our Policy Team explains what selective licensing is, why it’s used, and how the NLA represents its members on this topic.
The reasons for introducing selective licensing
Why would a local authority introduce selective licensing? The decision can be political, but it could also come from pressure by the local community or neighbouring local authorities, or if there’s a problem and council officers believe this is an approach that will resolve it. Alternatively, it could come from a campaign by a group of people or councillors who have had bad experiences in the private rented sector (PRS).
Ultimately the motivation for proposing a scheme has a great deal of bearing on the likelihood that it will have an impact on the local area, and whether landlords’ interests and concerns will be properly taken into account.
The decision process
The decision to introduce selective licensing is dependent on evidence, or at least it should be. This means that the process may be complicated and can take over a year before an outcome is reached.
Each local authority will have a different process but, at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the decision based on advice and evidence received from friends, neighbouring councils, pressure groups, and council officers. Some will have personal experience of renting, which they may rely on to inform their decisions.
Decision making at a council level can be difficult to understand, especially for landlords who are used to making informed business decisions on a daily basis. The time taken, and conclusions drawn, can be frustrating and appear illogical – sometimes because they are (quite frankly) illogical. The crux of the problem tends to lie with the fact that before a cabinet member puts his or her political capital, and budget, on the line and orders an expensive consultation and evidence gathering exercise they need to have already made a decision based on available evidence.
The majority of this evidence is usually from data provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The rest is based on research undertaken by council officers, who will answer the questions asked of them. So, if the officers are asked if they can find the evidence to introduce selective licensing, they will try to do so. Alternatively, if were are asked to assess the impact and ramifications of introducing licensing it is likely the data may support a different outcome.
These different answers shape the consultation and, ultimately, if a scheme is introduced.
What if the evidence isn’t in favour of selective licensing?
If the evidence does not support the introduction of a scheme at this point, why would a local authority proceed with a consultation which would come back with a negative result? As much as the public might think they like wasting time on futile exercises, local authorities would rather spend taxpayer money on projects that will get outcomes.
Of course it is worth understanding the driving force for the introduction proposal. Even where the justification isn’t clear-cut, there may be a political driver and in cases where there is significant opposition to selective licensing, there are many more who support it.
The consultation process
If a local authority decides to go ahead with a consultation, they will put forward their ideas and publicise it so those affected can respond, or so organisations like the NLA, can make submissions on behalf of their members. This is a mandatory part of the process and generally last around 10 weeks. It’s the best opportunity for the community to put forward their support, opposition or amendments to the scheme.
The next post in this series will look at the NLA’s approach to selective licensing. The previous post looked at what selective licensing is and its introduction.
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