A proposal to introduce a new licensing scheme for privately rented homes in Nottingham has now been formally submitted to the Secretary State for the Department for Communities and Local Government for confirmation. Recently, the Secretary of State approved the London Borough of Newham’s selective licensing proposal and the City Council is looking forward to the Government’s decision for Nottingham soon.

The proposal (known as Selective Licensing) would see landlords in selected areas of the city need to obtain a licence to demonstrate that each of the properties they rent out meets set standards relating to safety and quality. This will ensure tenants know exactly what to expect when they rent a home privately. Money raised through the scheme will help to cover the cost and the council hopes to be able to introduce the scheme from the spring of 2018.

The council received many complaints about private rented sector housing standards last year. A recent report by the BRE (Building Research Establishment) Group estimated that 21% of Nottingham’s private rented properties are likely to have Category 1 hazards – such as exposed wiring, a dangerous boiler, bedrooms that are very cold, a leaking roof, mould on the walls or ceiling and vermin infestation. Selective Licensing will help to make sure that these issues are tackled. In the meantime, the council has been introducing other new measures to improve private rented housing quality.

New powers resulting from changes made to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 allow councils to issue Civil Penalty fines up to £30,000 to landlords that knowingly rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation. Civil Penalties will be an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences, including the failure to comply with a housing improvement or overcrowding notice, not having the right licence for a property, not complying with licensing conditions, not complying with House in Multiple Occupation regulations or contravention of an overcrowding notice.

Under another set of housing law changes, the City Council and tenants are now able to get a Rent Repayment Order to claim back up to 12 months’ rent. This is for a wide range of offences including landlords illegally evicting or harassing people living in the property, using violence to secure entry and failure to comply with a housing improvement notice or prohibition order.

Councillor Jane Urquhart, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing & Heritage, said: “We are pleased for Newham and hope that the Government soon makes its decision for Nottingham. The majority of private tenants who responded to the Selective Licensing proposal were in favour of the scheme. The cost of licensing will be reduced for responsible landlords that gain Nottingham Standard Accreditation via DASH or Unipol, driving up private rented standards.
In the meantime we are looking at additional ways to make private rented property better. This is a council priority and will improve living standards for many city residents.”

The Nottingham Standard brings together the DASH and Unipol accreditation schemes under one certification mark to create a recognised quality standard for privately rented accommodation across the city. Accredited landlords can use the Nottingham Standard accreditation mark to show that they adhere to the standards required.

The proposed cost of the licence, as at July 2017, for those landlords who already have Nottingham Standard accreditation is £400 and £655 for those without accreditation. This may be subject to change depending on when the scheme comes into force. Accreditation is currently free but there will be a charge for landlords seeking accreditation in the New Year – starting at £95 and depending on how many properties the landlord operates, subject to possible change on scheme approval. Landlords can find out more about the Nottingham Standard here.

Prospective tenants can check to see if landlords are accredited. Students can check the Unipol Code and other private rented tenants can check the DASH Code at respectively.