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Government Revisit Selective Licensing Rules

RLA
Written by RLA

Minister of State for Housing and Planning for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Brandon Lewis, has written to Local Authorities about revisions to Selective Licensing schemes. New stipulations, coming into force on 1st April, will prevent Local Authorities from being able to create ‘blanket’ schemes on privately rented properties….

Minister of State for Housing and Planning for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Brandon Lewis, has written to Local Authorities about revisions to Selective Licensing schemes. New stipulations, coming into force on 1st April, will prevent Local Authorities from being able to create ‘blanket’ schemes on privately rented properties.

Private landlords have been subjected to increasing numbers of licensing schemes as Local Authorities assess how best to regulate a growing Private Rented Sector (PRS). However, new rules will require these Local Authorities to gain approval from the Secretary of State for any selective licensing scheme which would cover more than 20% of their geographical area or would affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area.

The RLA has welcomed the publication of draft government proposals that seek to restrict the scope of selective licensing schemes.  More and more councils are turning to authority wide schemes that require private landlords to pay for a licence for each property they let.  The draft regulations wold force councils to meet an additional range of conditions relating to the number of PRS properties in an area, poor housing conditions, migration, deprivation and crime.  The RLA has always opposed blanket licensing schemes, that are more about creating council jobs than improving standards and tackling criminal operators in the PRS.

Read the letter in full here.

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RLA

RLA

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.

7 Comments

  • Can someone explain the legality of Liverpool. Their scheme comes into force on the same day. The government amendment takes effect from not after the 1st April 2015.

    As it would appear the minister was specifically targeting the introduction of the scheme in Liverpool. Government notes state this is not retrospective, in the case of Liverpool it would not be retrospective.

    • Not a reply I`m afraid, but a further note.
      I would be interested in having further comments on this as well. Have recently registered my details with Liverpool City Council in time for their deadline, but it is an additional cost to have to pay the licensing fees and if it is not deemed necessary to have licensing imposed it would be appreciated.
      C.

  • Selective Licensing/Requirement of License holder to monitor Anti social behaviour,and concerns under Regulation of Investigatory powers Act 2000(RIPA).This act governs the way in which public bodies can lawfully gather information/evidence against private individuals.

    There are a number of issues under this act which which must be considerd and may affect councils/police/license holders position when collating information/evidence to support acts of anti social behaviour. Currently a private landlord is a private individual,and unaffected by RIPA , and may or may not choose to pass on information.However,when he/she is operating under a license, on behalf of a public body,there is no choice,but a legal obligation to monitor,record and disseminate information and intelligence regarding their tenants .In this case certain actions undertaken by the license holder,acting for or on behalf of a public body,must therefore need to be considered under this act ,as if it were the public body gathering it themselves.

    Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000( RIPA) . It is a requirement of Public Bodies,ie Local Councils and Police etc, when gathering information/intelligence,to properly authorise under the act, any actions by or on behalf of the authority,which may fall within the remit of Directed surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources(CHIS/source of information ) This act governs the way information/intelligence can be lawfully collected against private individuals by public bodies, and allows it when properly authorised to be admissablein court. It also provides a framework to protect the sources of the information/intelligence.

    As a condition of the license, the license holder is required to address incidents of anti social behaviour and RECORD and MONITOR acitivity,information/intelligence, and pass this onto the the local authority/police within seven days.This is necesssary in order to comply with license conditions, and to support future court proceedings for possession/criminal investigations / evidence for or on behalf of the council /police. Due to the fact that this is a legal requirement of the license,and the license holder is obliged to conform, such activity should be deemed as for or on behalf of the licensing authority.Therefore any actions in relation to this by the license holder,ie monitoring and recording, for future transmisssion to the council and or police,may require to be properly authroised under RIPA, as if it were them gathering the information themselves.

    Information may be first hand information/evidence from the license holder which has/is being monitored over a period of time,regarding the tenant,or the tenants family/friends or associates activities. It more than likely may be information from neighbours, who may or may not wish to remain anonymous. The information/evidence may be in the form of verbal reports,photographs /videos of activities of the tenant/ family or associates, vehicles etc,or may be photographic evidence of the inerior /exterior of the property,recordings of anti social behaviour on mobilephones or other recording devices . Information may also be in the form of text messages/email messages ,which may be of a confidential nature from the source, The list is endless. The reality is that a license holder, if faced with threats of £5000 for breaches of license conditions,or loss of the license,for failing to monitor /carry out his/her duties, may task him/herself/neighbours to gather evidence, with a view to satisfying the conditions of the license, ie to record and monitor anti social type activity., to be passed onto the licensing authority.

    My concerns are that some of this activity, may infact need to be authorised under RIPA ,as it is being gathered under the requirements of a license for the sole purpose of passing on to a public body.The council themselves ,by receiving such information,and allowing it to continue to be monitored and disseminated to them, may breach not only the RIPA legislation, which is there to protect private individuals ,but cetain aspects of Data protection.

    For example,If a license holder receives information from a neighbour that there is persistent callers to the license holders property, and the neighbour suspects drug activity, then the license holder must respond, by making a record of the complaint, and attempt to verify the information.He/she may confront the tenant directly, which is likely to to be unproductive.The police/licensing authority may be informed in the first instance, but it is highjly unlikely any action would follow,based on anonymous information.The problem persists and is then reported again to the license holder.Owing to the fact that no action appears to have been taken by licensing authority/police,based on lack of eveidnce, then it falls on the license holder to progress to the next step. for fear of being fined for failing to address the issue. A period of monitoring activity at the property may follow, either by the license holder, and or the neighbour, who may be tasked by the license holder to gather information.This could be in the form of video/photographic evidence together with recording of any vehicle numbers.As a requirement under the license, this information /evidence is then passed onto the licensing authority/police for further action. At this stage ,the activity of the license holder, in attempting to satisfy license conditions, falls under directed surveillance/CHIS authority, and may need to be properly authorised under RIPA.

    There of many instances in which the actions of a license holder in monitoring and recording information/evidence apertaining to the tenant,may fall within the remit of directed surveillance, and also under intrusive surveillance regulating Covert Human Intelligence Sources. (CHIS) If a relationship exists (ie landlord/tenant)between the license holder and the tenant, and covert information about the tenant and or family/associates is being passed by the license holder to the authority,some of which may be very sensitive, then the status of the license holder must be closely monitored,as a possible covert human intelligence source, and properly regulated.This is not only for the safety of the license holder,but also to protect the identity and product of the intelligence and to ensure any information passed to public bodies is properly sanitised before dissemination.

    A license holder may for instance be doing a routine property inspection and notice items of drug paraphernalia/ items he/she suspects be be stolen/contraband. There will be a requirement to pass this information on, and to possibly to monitor it, by means of a revisit. Again,any continuence of the monitoring activity would certainly fall within directed/intrusive surveillance,ie for establishing if the activity is continuing, and if done under the requirements of licensing,would likely fall under RIPA legislation.

    Under certain circumstances there may be cause for concern for the safety of license holders whose activities,in trying to fulfil the role of license holder,bring unnecessary problems.The requirement to pass on information regarding tenant activities to councils/police, if not properly protected and sanitised, may lead tothe source of the information,ie neighbour/ license holder, being identified, and serious repercussions may ensue. The landlords address is supplied on the tenancy agreement, and on the copy license which is to be handed to tenants, and proper protection of any information passed to councils /police under the authority of selective licensing should in the first instance be legally authorised and collected, and intelligence sources afforded the proper protection if it is to succeed.

    Furthermore bearing in mind the above, some clarity is required of what is expected of licence holders in relation to the MONITORING and RECORDING and DISSEMINATION of information for public bodies, in relation to anti social behaviour ,with some clear policy on what is and what is not permissible. Also confirmation of a secure data base held by councils to store and process this intelligence is required,together with suitably vetted personal to access it.

    It maybe beneficial that Surveillance Commissioners review Selective License Conditions and the current requirement of license holders to monitor and record anti social behaviour and disseminate the information to councils, without any consideration of compliance under RIPA.

  • Re previous message re Selective Licensing.
    Emails containing these issues have been forwarded to West derby local MP Steven Twigg/Housing Minister Brendon Lewis/Lpool City Council Licensing,together with challenges to Licences being non refunable and non transferable!

    The non refunable/non transferable license in effect ties you to the same agent/housing manager for a 5 year period, or pay a further full license application for each property.(We run in excess of 20 properties and the costs to relicense in the event of an agent underperforming/ being un competative is prohibitive.)Liverpool s response was to select carefully your managing agent from the outset!
    In the event of a change of license holder, it would be interresting to establish the cost involved in processing a new licencse holder application, (not the property application forms as they I suspect would remain unchanged and there would be no need to duplicate them.) I wonder how the council could justify charging the full application fee again for all the properties for performing checks on one license holder!

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