Oxford City Council has received over 10,000 licence applications after implementing a new licensing scheme for private rented homes.
The citywide ‘selective licensing’ scheme, which came into force on 01 September, means that all private rented homes in Oxford now need a licence.
The council offered a three-month early bird discounted rate to encourage landlords and agents to apply early to license their properties.
The early bird period ended on 30 November, and a standard fee of £480 for a five-year licence now applies during the scheme’s first year.
A higher rate fee of £1,100 will apply from 1 September 2023 unless a home is newly rented within 12 weeks of the date of application.
Landlords and agents made 5,893 complete licence applications during the first three months. The largest letting agents also submitted details of a further 4,200 homes during this period.
This meant that the early bird period accounted for 10,093 licence applications – considerably more than the 7,500 applications the council was targeting.
Citywide selective licensing follows government approval of the scheme in April.
Before 01 September, only houses in multiple occupation – shared houses – required a licence to operate, though these account for less than 15% of private rented homes in Oxford. Selective licensing means that all private rented homes need one to help ensure they are safe, well-maintained and well-managed.
Licensing requires private landlords to show compliance 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.
The council will begin looking for unlicensed homes from 01 January 2023, and landlords and agents may be 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.
“We’re dealing with more than 10,000 licence applications, and that’s great news for tenants and the majority of responsible landlords and agents.
“If you’re a landlord or agent who hasn’t applied yet, you’ve missed the early bird but don’t miss the boat. Everyone should have a decent home, and your tenants deserve the confidence of knowing that theirs is safe, in good condition and well managed.”
Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing
The council believes 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 privately rented homes. During that time, it served 2,451 housing and public health notices and undertook 4,058 investigations into antisocial behaviour related to privately rented homes.