A new national licensing scheme is being introduced to improve housing for tenants living in privately rented properties.
Currently larger shared rented properties with three storeys or more need a licence from Bristol City Council. From 1 October 2018, the law on licensing these properties in England is changing.
All landlords or agents who rent shared accommodation must apply for a licence if they meet the following criteria:
- their house or flat is lived in by five or more people
- from two or more families
- who share rooms like kitchens, bathrooms or living rooms
- it will not matter how many storeys or floors there are in the property.
A shared house or flat with five or more unrelated tenants, or a house containing five or more bedsits are examples of the types of properties affected by the change.
These properties will need to meet current licensing conditions and comply with standards, including minimum room sizes and new rules on refuse and recycling.
Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, said:
“This change to government legislation should help improve standards of privately rented accommodation across the city. We know from experience that licensing is a good way to deal with issues of poor standards of accommodation and inefficient property management.
“While most landlords are providing quality rented accommodation, a large number are in poor condition and no one in Bristol should be living like that. We want to ensure every tenant in the city is provided with safe and quality housing.”
Landlords or agents who currently rent this type of accommodation are now able to apply for a licence in Bristol. If they fail to apply by midnight on 30 September 2018 they may be liable for an unlimited fine or a financial penalty of up to £30,000, as well as having to pay higher licence fees.
Landlords who operate an unlicensed property also face other consequences, for example:
- Not being able to gain possession
- Risk being ordered to repay tenants up to 12 months’ rent
- In the very worst circumstances where the property has not been licensed, the council can take over management.
Landlords can apply for a licence on the Bristol City Council website, where there is more information on the law change.
These new requirements have been set by national laws and are different to the council’s recent proposal to declare a licensing area in the 12 central wards of Bristol. The consultation on this proposal has closed and results are currently being evaluated. Following that the Cabinet will be asked to consider the results of the consultation and whether or not the proposed central licensing area should be declared.
The main difference between the council’s proposal and the national change in law is that the council are proposing that the number of people sharing only has to be three and not five people as there are many more tenants that would be protected from poor housing and management.