safeagent is calling for new property licensing schemes in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) to be placed on hold to free up resources.
In the wake of the Coronavirus, safeagent says licensing schemes not already in force should be delayed now and reviewed again in six months’ time. This approach is two-fold; to ensure focus on maintaining core services through what lies ahead, and to discourage non-essential property inspections that could add to community spread of the virus.
safeagent, along with London Property Licensing, has examined property licensing in the PRS, and has two key asks for local and central government:
- The Secretary of State to impose a six-month moratorium on approving any new selective licensing schemes (*1).
- Local authorities to impose a six-month moratorium on making any new additional and/or selective licensing schemes designations. To also review whether scheme designations made, but not yet in force, should be withdrawn (*2). Any new licensing consultations not already underway should be delayed for a similar period of time.
Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive, safeagent, explains:
“Like all sectors, the lettings industry, and millions of tenants reliant upon it, will be placed under immense pressure in the months ahead. In this context, now is not the right time to implement new property licensing schemes that will necessitate thousands of extra property inspections.
“This is not an anti-licensing proposal, but rather a sensible measure in response to Coronavirus. Right now, the sector needs to hunker down. We need to free up local government and lettings industry resources to focus on more urgent tasks”.
Richard Tacagni, Managing Director, London Property Licensing, added:
“With the country going into lockdown following government advice on social distancing and self-isolation for at risk groups and those with Coronavirus symptoms, we need a pragmatic approach to imposition of new regulatory burdens.
“It seems likely that the limited resources in local government, and the expertise offered by Environmental Health Officers, will need to be re-focussed on maintaining key public services to support the wider public health agenda. It is important that the lettings industry, central and local government work in close collaboration to tackle the challenges ahead”.
*1 Under the Housing Act 2004: Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Selective Licensing of other Residential Accommodation (England) General Approval 2015, local authorities need permission from the Secretary of State to implement larger selective licensing schemes covering over 20% of the borough and/or 20% of privately rented homes in the borough.
*2 A licensing designation must be made at least three months before a new scheme starts.