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More councils are looking at introducing licensing for landlords, in a bid to crack down on rogue landlords. Although it has been pointed out that licensing hits legitimate, professional buy-to-let investors, local authorities still see it as a way of improving standards and stamping out anti-social behaviour.

Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council is discussing whether to introduce a selective licensing plan, to help address the problem of poor-quality housing in the private rental sector and anti-social tenants. Landlords would need a licence before they could rent out properties in the North-West town. The argument is that it will improve the quality of life and cut down on anti-social behaviour, particularly in the Egerton Court area. Councillor Alec Proffitt said he thought it would be beneficial, as landlords would have to meet certain standards and it would encourage ‘responsible tenancy’. He pointed out that it would depend on the local authorities having sufficient finances to deliver the scheme effectively. If implemented, the licensing scheme would initially cover the Egerton Court area, but it could be extended across Barrow.

Elsewhere, Manchester City Centre is considering extending its selective housing scheme in the Moss Side and Rusholme areas. It already has approval to introduce licensing in Crumpsall. Selective licensing is being introduced for private rentals that are not covered by HMO licences. A district may be designated if it is an area of low housing demand or has a significant problem with anti-social behaviour, which local authorities are attributing to landlords failing to take action against bad tenants. The scheme can cost landlords up to £750 for each home.

However, professional landlords feel they are being unfairly targeted. It is yet another expense they have to face, at a time when tax changes are being introduced which will also adversely affect their income. The licensing schemes could also discourage investment in the sector, which could have the knock-on effect of more vacant properties in the area. The cost of the licence may also be passed on to tenants through increased rents.

Interestingly, a group of landlords has successfully challenged a council’s proposed licensing scheme, by setting up their own alternative. The Somerset Property Network was set up last year to counter a local authority plan which would have cost them £320 per property for a licence. The SPN has held an accreditation and training day for landlords to join the National Landlords’ Code of Excellence, allowing tenants to report any problems with properties or behaviour. It is hoped this alternative will allow landlords to work alongside North Somerset Council and avert the need to introduce selective licensing.