Labour council proposes controversial city-wide licensing scheme

2 September 2020 | Renting

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.

This post has originally been featured in Letting Agent Today.