Communities and Local Government CommitteeSupplementary written evidence submitted by Bristol City Council


Summary of Proposed Changes to Discretionary Licensing Powers

Reduce regulation and red-tape.

Simplify the schemes. One discretionary licensing scheme covering all private housing not covered by mandatory licensing.

Easing requirements on area eligibility and definitions. If an area is shown to be suffering poor housing conditions or anti-social behaviour or low housing demand, then it should be eligible for the scheme.

Ensuring all licensing costs can be included in the fee structure, including publicity and enforcement.

Lower standards of data required to declare a scheme. It is currently time-consuming, difficult and expensive to ascertain levels of private rented accommodation and demonstrate they meet the current criteria to declare discretionary licensing in a particular area.

Discretionary LicensingIssues with Current Legislation

Identification of the area

Local authorities do not know where all private rented properties are in their areas—some records are held by various teams across Local Authorities, but this can quickly get out of date:

Private Housing/Environmental Health who may have received complaints from private tenants.

Housing Benefit Teams who will process Local Housing Allowance applications.

Council Tax Teams may collect details of tenure as part of their application process although this will not be conclusive.

Without detailed research it can be time consuming and costly to establish conclusively where high concentrations of private rented accommodation is. The reality is that housing tenure statistics are an ever changing picture so what previously had high concentrations of Private Rented Accommodation when evidence gathering is undertaken, may not be when a discretionary licensing scheme is declared.


Gaps in definition: “Selective licensing” does not cover all private rented properties that fall outside of mandatory licensing scheme definitions. Properties with two or more tenancies or licence agreements occupied by people who share some facilities are excluded.1

“Additional licensing” does not pick up all those properties not covered by Selective Licensing. Both Additional and Selective schemes need to be amended to ensure the entire Private Rented Sector is included.

Properties let in this way may suffer poor management, be in very poor condition or have ASB linked to them, but actually fall outside of both Additional and Selective licensing scheme definitions under the Housing Act 2004.

We are sure that this cannot be the intention of the discretionary licensing functions under the Act?

Discretionary LicensingQualification Criteria

It can be difficult to meet set criteria to declare a Selective Licensing area. This can be declared when:

The area is, or is likely to become, an area of low housing demand; and

Making a designation will contribute to the improvement of the social or economic conditions in the area.


The area is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour;

Some or all of the private sector landlords who have let premises in the area (whether under leases or licenses) are failing to take action to combat the problem [persistent ASB]; and

It can be extremely difficult to prove that significant issues around ASB are caused by private rented sector by tenants.

Specifically limiting Selective Licensing powers to the specified criteria does not reflect one of the principle issues with the sector, which is the poor condition of the stock ie levels of non decent accommodation, poor energy efficiency and serious hazard (English Housing Survey 2010).

Qualification Conditions

It can be extremely difficult and time consuming to collect suitable evidence from the police and other agencies in respect of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB), linked to tenure, in an area. ASB information can be obtained for each area, however tenure details are infrequently collected to enable cross tabulation of results. As a result, it can be extremely difficult to show that ASB as being carried out by private sector tenants and as such that a Selective Licensing Scheme may be an option to help deal with these issues.

Publicity and Public Registers

Legislation on publicising an area once this has been approved is specified, in explicit detail, in regulation.2 This informs Local Authorities how, where and when Public Notices are to be published. The publicity requirements are cumbersome and expensive to use and do not generally reflect how local authorities communicate with their customers in 2012. Advertisements have to be placed in two local newspapers as soon as possible after a decision has been taken to implement the scheme and these adverts must be repeated six times over a ten-week period, in two local newspapers. In Bristol the publicity alone has cost the local authority £25,000 and these costs cannot be included/recovered from licensing fee income. This communication method is out of date now with the use of the internet, the use of our own web pages, local residents and community meetings to advertise Local Authority decisions.

The same regulations have unnecessary detailed requirements to maintain public registers. The extent of information specified is unnecessary.3

Complexity and resources necessary to declare an area are burdensome.

General Issues

Landlords mostly responded to consultation exercise and are naturally against the idea in most cases. It can be difficult to obtain representation and engage local tenants in the consultation.

Realistically recovering the full cost of operating a scheme can be difficult, as Local Authorities cannot include enforcement costs into the licensing fee costs.

The current Licensing regime specifies in detail conditions that Local Authorities have to require landlords to meet. It does not provide any local discretion to deal with local housing related problems.

Enforcement sanctions need to be swifter and easier to use.

Local Authorities should have the flexibility to include all costs linked the licensing function within the fee structure including the enforcement elements. An option would be to issue Penalty Charge Notices for non compliance with licence conditions. This means the non compliant landlord can be tackled more effectively and costs borne by them rather than the compliant landlords.

March 2013

1 Housing Act 2004, Part 3 section 79(2)(b)(ii) only allows a house to be granted a Selective Licence where it is : “under two or more tenancies or licences in respect of different dwellings contained in it..” A number of Houses in multiple occupation are let on two or more tenancies to a group of people sharing facilities in a house which would not be considered a “different dwellings”. Hence these properties cannot be licensed under part 3 of the Housing Act 2004. Additional licensing only applies to Houses in Multiple Occupation which amongst other criteria, must have three or more persons occupying to be an HMO*. So properties occupied by two persons of separate households on two tenancies who share facilities (i.e live in the same dwelling) cannot be licensed under Discretionary Licensing provisions. *(Schedule 14 para. 6(1)(c) Housing Act 04 and Reg 6 (2) SI 2006 No.373).

2 SI 2006 No.373 Reg 9.

3 SI 2006 No 373 REgs 11–13.

Prepared 16th July 2013