Oxford’s private rented sector faces its biggest shake up in over a decade with the start of a new licensing scheme on 1 September.
Oxford City Council’s ‘selective licensing’ scheme will be in force for five years and means that all private rented homes in Oxford need a licence.
Until now only houses in multiple occupation – shared houses – have required a licence to operate, though these make up less than 15% of private rented homes in Oxford. Selective licensing means that all private rented homes need a licence to help ensure they are safe, well maintained and well managed.
Licensing requires private landlords to show that they are complying with the law by meeting safety and management standards, being a ‘fit and proper person’ and meeting council waste storage and disposal requirements.
The start of citywide selective licensing follows government approval of the scheme in April. It means Oxford is the only council area outside London requiring a licence for all private rented homes.
A five year licence costs £480. Landlords and agents who make a complete application by 30 November will qualify for an early bird discounted rate of £400.
There is also a discounted fee of £280 for accredited landlords.
The Office for National Statistics reports a median private rent of £1,500 a month for a three-bedroom home in Oxford. The cost of a five year licence for landlords ranges from £4.67 to £8 a month – no more than 0.5% of an average rent.
Oxford needs decent homes
The council believes that licensing all private rented homes will protect tenants, drive up standards in the sector and crack down on rogue landlords. It will also create a level playing field for all landlords and tenants.
Half (49.3%) of all Oxford’s homes are now privately rented. An independent review of housing conditions in 2020 found that a fifth (6,200) of the 30,500 homes in Oxford’s private rented sector could have a serious housing hazard.
Between 2015 and 2020 the council received 3,360 complaints from private renters about 2,990 properties – around one in 10 of all privately rented homes. During that time the council served 2,451 housing and public health notices and carried out 4,058 investigations into antisocial behaviour related to private rented housing.
During consultation on a possible scheme in 2020, more than two thirds of Oxford tenants and residents (68%) agreed with the introduction of selective licensing. The plans were also strongly backed by stakeholder organisations.
“Oxford needs decent homes and the launch of selective licensing today will help make that a reality for private tenants who have – too often – had to put up with substandard and frankly dangerous conditions.
“Selective licensing will protect private tenants by driving up standards and cracking down on the rogue landlords who make their lives a misery. The majority of responsible landlords and agents who already do a good job have nothing to fear, as a licence means tenants will have confidence in their ability to provide safe, well maintained and well managed homes.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet member for Housing