Selective licensing has been around for several years, but has recently been back in the headlines, write residential property specialists Nicholas Pye and Andrew White.

Since April 2006, the Housing Act 2004 has allowed local authorities to adopt selective licensing in areas affected by low demand or anti-social behaviour. Once implemented, all privately-rented dwellings within the affected area must be licensed, except where they are already licensed under the legislation relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation or benefit from an exemption (such as accommodation provided by universities or social housing providers).

From 1 April 2015, local authorities must seek confirmation from the Secretary of State for any selective licensing scheme covering more than 20% of their geographical area or affecting more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area. Changes are also being made to the criteria and consultation requirements.

In the meantime:

  • several London Boroughs have already introduced selective licensing, including Newham, Brent, Barking & Dagenham and Waltham Forest;
  • a borough-wide scheme proposed by London Borough of Enfield was quashed by the High Court in December 2014;
  • Sheffield City Council adopted a selective licensing scheme for Page Hall in January 2014;
  • Liverpool City Council introduced a citywide scheme on 1 April 2015; and
  • Wirral Council is introducing a scheme on 1 July 2015, affecting four specific areas.

Conversely, Manchester City Council was one of the first local authorities to adopt selective licensing but decided not to renew its own scheme when the initial five-year period expired.