Licensing and Local Government Enforcement

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Local authorities have a number of powers that they can use with the intention of improving conditions in the private rented sector. These powers are either proactive such as licensing schemes or reactive such as improvement notices, civil penalties, etc.

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Licensing Schemes

Houses in Multiple Occupation - Licensing and Management

Last Updated: 09/02/2024

If you are renting a HMO property to five or more people in most cases you will be required to have a licence under Part 2 of Housing Act 2004 (mandatory licensing). In addition to this your local authority can create an additional licensing scheme to cover other HMO properties.

Selective Licensing Schemes

Last Updated: 11/10/2021

If the local authority identifies a genuine need for it then they can create a licensing scheme that applies to all properties in a specific area (selective licensing) regardless of whether they are a HMO or rented to individuals or families.

Licensing Toolkit Guide

Licensing Response Toolkit for Responding to Consultations

Last Updated: 14/07/2021

A local authority has the power to introduce selective licensing of private rented properties under the Housing Act 2004. The same Act also introduced a licensing regime for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). 
If a local authority decides to consult on discretionary licensing, this guide will outline the legal requirements the local authority needs to fulfil as well as resources available to members to respond to the consultation process. 

Minimum amenity standards

Minimum Amenity Standards for Licensed HMO

Last Updated: 22/07/2020

If your HMO is licensed it will have to meet the national minimum amenity standards either before the licence is granted or within a specific timeframe set out in the conditions of the licence.

Planning use (article 4 direction)

Changing Planning Use - Article 4 Directions

Last Updated: 22/07/2020

If you need to amend, build or change the use of a building usually you will need to have planning permission for it from your local planning authority. They will need to approve the work before it goes ahead, quite often adding specific conditions to ensure the work meets the building regulations for example.

However, if you have permitted development rights to for the specific change you want to make, you do not have to ask prior permission from the planning authority.

A toolkit for responding to Article 4 Direction consultations

Last Updated: 22/04/2022

If a local authority does decide to implement Article 4 Directions then there will be a consultation process. This page provides resources and guidance for members on what to include in their own consultation responses.

Local authority enforcement powers

Civil Penalties

Last Updated: 06/07/2020

Civil penalties are an alternative to prosecution for a variety of offences under the Housing Act 2004. For any of the listed offences, local authorities will now be able to fine the landlord as an alternative to bringing a prosecution against them.

Rent Repayment Orders

Last Updated: 21/07/2020

Rent repayment orders are a means by which a tenant or local authority can seek to have up to 12 months of rent, Housing Benefit, or Universal Credit repaid, usually in addition to other fines. 

Banning Orders and the Rogue Landlord Database

Last Updated: 22/07/2020

A banning order prohibits a person from renting out residential accommodation, engaging in letting agency work or engaging in property management work. It also prohibits a person from holding a HMO licence or a licence granted under a selective licensing scheme.


Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

Last Updated: 22/07/2020

The Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is the way in which local authorities assess housing conditions in England and Wales. It uses a risk assessment approach. The aim is to provide a system that enables risks from hazards to be removed or minimised. The method is prescribed by Regulations, made under the Housing Act 2004.

Local authority powers for dealing with property conditions

Last Updated: 22/07/2020

If a local authority is satisfied that they need take action due to a breach of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) they have a number of different options at their disposal including compelling the landlord to improve the property via an improvement notice or doing the work themselves where emergency remedial action is required.

Further resources

We have a wide range of available resources on various topics relating to good tenancy management. For a full list of these resources please see our resources index.