Selective licensing

Selective Licensing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is this a property licence or landlord licence?

It is the property that is licensed. A licence is issued to a named person for a named property. This is not a landlord licensing scheme where we issue one licence to a landlord to cover all the properties they own / manage within Oxford.

Can the licence be in joint names?

The licence can only be issued to one named person. Joint owners would have to nominate one owner to be the licence holder.

Why is it called "Selective Licensing"?

The term comes from the Housing Act 2004. The Housing Act 2004 allows the local authority to select all, or parts, of their area subject to these licensing controls. It refers to the “selection” of the area as opposed to the people who have to apply or properties covered.

You can find out more about why the council has introduced the scheme on our Selective Licensing background page.

I have an HMO licence, do I need a selective licence as well?

No. A property needs either an HMO licence or a selective licence.

Do flats require a licence?

Flats that are let on a tenancy or licence will be covered by the Selective Licensing scheme.

Where the flat is occupied by the lease-holder, then this is exempt and does not require a selective licence.

Where a building contains multiple flats, then each flat will need an individual licence. A block licence may be possible for a building with multiple flats.

How long will the licence be issued for?

The standard selective licence will be five (5) years from the date of issue. A one (1) year licence will be given where there are serious concerns regarding the proposed licence holder, management arrangements or conditions.

If I have applied and you have not issued the licence, can I still rent or advertise the property or serve a s21?

Once the application is made, the legal duty on the landlord has been fulfilled. You can then let the property and advertise for letting. You can also serve a section 21 notice.

What about a property that is vacant and being advertised for let - can a tenancy agreement be signed and when do I apply?

You can advertise the property and sign a tenancy agreement. The application must be made at the point the tenant moves in however we will accept applications once an agreement is signed.

However, a property could not be advertised with a statement the property “had a licence” unless an application has been made. This would be at risk of false advertising.

What happens if I apply after 30 November 2022?

From 1 December 2022, applications will be charged at the standard fee.

From 1 January 2023, the Council will begin looking for unlicensed properties and the owners may be at risk of further enforcement action.

From 1 September 2023, applications will be charged at the higher fee unless the applicant can demonstrate the property has been occupied as a rented home for less than 12 weeks before the application was made – in these cases, the standard fee will apply.

Can a non-resident UK person (overseas landlord) hold a licence?

This may be possible depending on the management arrangements. The licence holder must be fit and proper and demonstrate satisfactory management arrangements exist.

The proposed licence holder must have an address in the UK at which they can receive legal notices and correspondence and must have an email address to accept electronic service of documents.

If the landlord employs a UK managing agent (preferably a reasonable distance from Oxford) who has full management control then we advise the agent applies for the licence on your behalf.  

If landlords do not have a UK management agent with full control then the landlord must still legally make an application and must explain their arrangements and we will consider these arrangements.

As part of the application, we require a statement to explain how the non-resident landlord will manage the property. Where there is a managing agent, we have developed this overseas landlord declaration for both the landlord and agent to sign and upload with the application (under the “other” document category). If a landlord does not use a managing agent, then we recommend you read the declaration and write a statement to explain how you undertake the actions that the managing agent is expected to do. This can be a word document and you upload with the application (under the “other” document category).

All overseas landlord applications will be decided on a case-by-case basis by a senior officer.

Can I transfer a licence if I sell the property?

No. Under the Housing Act 2004, a licence is not transferable to another person. If a landlord sells the house and the new owner decides to rent the house, the new owner must apply for their own licence. If the agent is the licence holder and the owner of a property / landlord changes the agent, the licence cannot be transferred and a new application will have to be made.

My property is let on a pre 1985 Housing Act tenancy - is this included?

Pre Housing Act 1985 tenancies, such as tenancies under the Rent Act 1977 and the Housing Act 1980 fall within selective licensing.

My property is let on a common law tenancy - is this included?

Yes. The exemptions under the 2006 Order do not include a common law tenancy where the rent is £100,000 or more a year and therefore such tenancies are included within selective licensing unless the tenancy falls within another exemption.

Contact us

Contact us on propertylicensing@oxford.gov.uk 

Landlord Forum Questions and Answers

The presentation slides from the Selective Licensing Landlord Forum are available to download.

Q. “Holiday lets” exemption – what is meant by a holiday let?

A. Legal Services have interpreted a holiday let is a short let, where the duration of the stay in less than 90 days. Please note, there are also restrictions on planning use with holiday / short lets as well.  

Q. How regular is a regular inspection? 

A. This depends on your property and tenants. The licence conditions will require once every 6 months.

Q. What is the requirements for smoke alarms and testing?  What happens in tenant has been there for 5 years with a smoke alarm and testing, what duty do we have? Do you need a heat detector in the kitchen?

A. Under the Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide regulations, there must be a smoke alarm on every storey (floor) used as living accommodation and the smoke alarms must be tested on the first day of a new tenancy. From 01 October 2021, in addition, if the alarms are reported or found to be faulty the landlord has a duty to replace / repair the alarms.

These requirements apply even if the tenant has been there for a long time. If you sign a new tenancy then this means you need to test the alarm on the start date of the new tenancy. If it is a rolling periodic tenancy then the repair obligation commences from 01 October 2018.

Although battery alarms are acceptable, under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System then battery alarms are likely to lead to a higher risk and landlords are likely to be asked to install mains powered alarms.

There is no requirement for a heat detector as part of the licence, unlike for HMOs. However depending on property layout and other risk factors then a heat detector may be required under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

Q. If you have several properties to licence, will there be allowance for a longer time to apply?

A. If landlords or agents have more than 50 properties then you can ask for a phasing agreement however you must ask for this before 1 September 2022.

Q. When will the Council be proactively looking for unlicensed properties?

A. This work will start in 2023.

Q. There has been a sitting tenant in my property , since 1994. What happens in these situations? What if the condition is poor, what happens? 

A. The property will require a licence however if the condition is poor and the tenant is responsible for certain repairs or is unwilling to have repairs then we are likely to serve a suspended notice. This means the landlord does not need to do the repairs until the tenant leaves.

Q. How do we get the accreditation discount? 

A. You must have a current accreditation with one of the accepted schemes, or the property is fully managed by an accredited agent.  Where the landlord holds the accreditation then you will need to submit a copy of the accreditation certificate with the application. Where the agent holds the accreditation then this is published on our website.

Q. The requirement on the application to inform interested parties - when do you inform the interested party, how and who?  Does it include tenants? 

A. A relevant interested party is a person (person in law, so includes mortgage and other legal entities) and must be named on the application. You must inform them before you make the application or soon after. It only includes tenants if there tenancy or lease has a fixed term of 3 years or more.

Q. Why do you need the licence holder Date of birth?

A. For identification purposes.

Q. What’s a habitable room? 

A. A room used as living or sleeping accommodation – basically any room that is not a kitchen or bathroom.

Q. Do you need to add every room?

A. Yes, you need to add every room

Q. How do I apply for a temporary exemption notice?

A. A temporary exemption can be applied for via the application system.

Q. What happens if number of occupants change after application made in the 5yrs of licence, do I need to inform the Council  of the new occupancy number?

A. If the occupancy number increases then we will need to be informed to ensure the accommodation is suitable. It does not matter if the occupancy number decreases. The licence gives a permitted maximum.

Q. Payment - is there an alternative to payment by credit/debit card payment?

A. No there is no alternative unless you are on a phasing agreement, where you have more than 50 applications to make.

Q. If you have more than one application, can you pay all together? 

A. You can complete up to 8 applications on the system at one time. You then stop and pay for these 8. If you have more than 8 then you start again. E.g. if you have 14 applications then you complete 8, pay for these and then complete the remaining 6 and pay. The limit of 8 is set by the payment system.

Q. If you use an accredited agent- do you still get the discount?

A. Yes, providing the application is made by 30 November 2022 and all required documents submitted.

Q. Where does the money go and will it improve the properties in the city?

A. The money can only be used to pay for the operation and enforcement of the scheme. The money pays for the processing and inspecting officer, including ICT etc. The properties will be inspected and through this, improvements will be asked for.

Q. How will you capture those landlords who have not attended the forum?

A. We will be commencing an advertising campaign during the early bird including radio, bus adverts and hopefully press coverage.

Q. Will the Licence Holders name and address be made public and if so do I have control over the publishing of my name on the licence register?

A. Regulations require the name and the address of the licence holder and manager, if different, are published. You cannot ask for the information to be withheld. Legal Services have advised that address means “ the place the person is normally to be found” – that means, for a person your normal residential address or for a business, the usual place of business.

Q. Can future landlord events be live streamed and / or recorded?

A. It is unlikely we can live-stream events however presentations are always available after each event. If possible, these may be recorded presentations.

Q. I’ve read on the website the EPC must be a D however you have stated an E. Which is correct?

A. For licensing, the minimum requirement is an E. However for landlords who wish to be accredited under our OCLAS scheme then we require all properties to have an EPC of D. This is to fit in with Oxford City Council’s ambitions on sustainability and zero carbon.

Q. For the requirement to obtain tenant references - what is acceptable?

A. The requirement is to demand (ask) for references, not obtain. It is up to the landlord if the reference given is acceptable. It is also acceptable for the landlord to give a tenancy agreement even if the person does not provide a reference, following the request.

Q. Where there is a leasehold for the flat and there is a different freeholder liable for the common parts then as a licence holder, will I become liable for disrepair in common parts?

A. Typically where we investigate a report of disrepair in these cases we would attempt to make contact with the block manager to resolve this if that is the agreement in place.

Q. I do not have access to a computer. Is there another way for me to apply?

A.  You can use a public computer at a library or use your tablet or smartphone, or ask a friend or relative to apply for the licence on your behalf. If this is not possible, please contact us at propertylicensing@oxford.gov.uk for further advice. However it is expected that as landlords are considered a business they should be able to operate electronically.

Q. What happens if the landlord moves abroad during the licence?

A.The landlord (licence holder) would be required to notify us and explain the change in circumstances. We would decide if the management arrangements are satisfactory, as in the above section on overseas landlords. All decisions are made on a case by case basis.

Q. Do I need to apply if I am required to live away for their job and rents their home while they live elsewhere?

A. A licence is required. There is on exemption for persons who rent out their home while they live elsewhere for work purposes.

Q. Does the scheme cover studio flats?

A. Yes, studio flats are included.