Recently, DCC put back the consultation deadline to the 2nd of August 2020 due to Coronavirus. The Government’s coronavirus guidance for local authorities on enforcing standards in private rented housing says
"Where local authorities are in the process of introducing non-mandatory licensing schemes, but these are not yet in force, they should consider pausing these at an appropriate point, in line with the advice on proactive and reactive work."
These guidelines aim to protect tenants and landlords from unnecessary contact. Where a licensing scheme is introduced, landlords have to go into their properties to check that they meet the licensing obligation and may need to ask trademen to carry out non-essential works. This exposes them and the tenants to an enhanced risk of contagion.
Durham County Council are considering launching a new Private Landlord licensing scheme to start in 2020 labelled Selective Licensing.
Fees proposed in January 2020 are up to £590 per property but this could change (Stockton last year was proposing £845 whilst Havering's new scheme proposes £1250).
In addition Landlords are required to comply with additional requirements immediately, leading to more up-front costs and extra administration to prove compliance alongside the licence fee.
DCC started the consultation process on their plans and claimed Licensing will cover around two thirds of the County, but by our calculations, based on their figures it will cover 90% of Rental Properties in the County!
This is a big blow for tenants whose house may already be kept to a high standard as they may now be hit with a rent increase. If tenants cannot afford the rent increase, it may also lead to a rise in homelessness.
Rogue Landlords who don’t sign up could continue to fly under the radar as Selective Licensing schemes tend to focus on identified landlords.
Homeowners will also suffer lower house valuations from the perceived side effects of being in an area designated for Selective licensing devaluing their homes.
The Scheme is proposed to cover large areas known as Medium Super Output Areas (MSOA’s) these cover 2000 – 6000 households rather than a few problem streets. For example, Bishop Auckland is covered by only 2 MSOA's so homeowners in “GOOD“ areas will find they are in a selective licensing area.
Darlington Council is a separate Unitary Authority and DCC cannot include Darlington properties in this scheme. An easy check is if your rental property pays council tax to Darlington it will not be included.
The council consultation is here