Oxford City Council is urging private landlords who have not applied for licences to rent out their homes to do so now.
A citywide ‘selective licensing’ scheme came into force in September 2022 which means all private rented homes in Oxford need a licence. The council has received more than 10,500 licence applications and says that landlords and agents face a big increase in the application fee if they don’t apply by 1 September.
A standard fee of £480 for a five-year licence applies during the first year of the scheme.
A higher rate of £1,100 will apply from 1 September 2023 unless a home is newly rented within 12 weeks of the date of application.
The lower first-year rate is the result of consultation with landlords and agents before the start of the scheme. They told the council that responsible landlords and agents making an early application should not have to bear the costs of enforcement against those who applied late or did not apply at all.
So far, the council has issued 986 licences and around 2,000 draft licences.
About selective licensing
Before last September only houses in multiple occupation – shared houses – 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.
Oxford is the only council in the country requiring a licence for all private rented homes.
Unlicensed landlords and agents are now at risk of enforcement action.
The council can issue financial penalties of up to £30,000 and the courts have the power to impose unlimited fines for unlicensed homes.
Tenants living in an unlicensed home can apply to a First Tier Tribunal for a rent repayment order (RRO). This allows them to claim back up to a year’s rent from their landlord for any period the home they live in is unlicensed.
However, licences are not published on the register until they are issued and it does not include pending applications. Any tenant living in a home not on either register should email email@example.com for further information and advice.
As well as RROs, unlicensed landlords and agents may have to repay any housing benefit paid to them by the council.
Unlicensed landlords cannot serve a section 21 ‘(no fault’) eviction notice. This means they cannot evade licensing rules by evicting tenants. Any tenant concerned about illegal eviction and harassment should email firstname.lastname@example.org
“We’ve had more than 10,500 applications to our selective licensing scheme and we’re making good progress with issuing licences. If you’re a landlord or agent who hasn’t applied yet then you need to get a move on. The application fee will increase from £480 to £1,100 on 1 September and you’re already at risk of enforcement action if your properties are unlicensed.”
Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing