Oxford City Council’s licensing scheme attracts 10k applications

The initiative was launched in September 2022 and made it obligatory for all private rental homes in the city to have a license.

The number of applications exceeded the council’s forecasts with landlords and agents submitting 10,896 applications concerning more than 12,300 homes, 34 per cent higher than the anticipated number.

More than 9,000 of these were received during the initial ‘early bird’ period when discounted licenses were offered to encourage quick responses.

Throughout the first year, 2,138 licenses were granted, and the council reports that it is on track to complete the remaining early bird applications in the following six months.

So far, 5,925 licenses have been issued.

In March 2023, the council started a search for unlicensed properties.

To date, 83 cases have been examined, resulting in 49 license applications and 16 exemptions.

The remaining cases are still under investigation.

Oxford Mail: Linda SmithLinda Smith (Image: Oxford Mail)

Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, said: “Our selective licensing scheme is a crucial step in raising the bar for quality standards in private rented homes.

“We are committed to ensuring safe, decent homes for private tenants.

“The majority of landlords and agents do a good job and have nothing to fear from selective licensing.

“I’m encouraged that so many made licence applications during the first year of the scheme and I’d like to thank them all.

“If you’re a landlord or agent who hasn’t applied yet, what are you waiting for?

“We’re now taking enforcement action, and you’re running the risk of an unlimited fine if your properties aren’t licensed.”

Property inspections conducted as a response to complaints have uncovered serious housing hazards in 59 per cent of 61 properties.

The council has resolved to intensify these inspections, aiming to survey 60 per cent of licensed properties within five years.

As the sole council in the country which mandates licenses for all private rented homes, Oxford’s selective licensing scheme replaces the previous system, under which only houses in multiple occupation required a license.

The license proves landlords’ adherence to safety and management standards, their qualification as a “fit and proper person”, and their compliance with council waste storage and disposal requirements.

The council has recently begun taking action against unlicensed landlords and agents, who risk penalties of up to £30,000.

Additionally, courts can inflict unlimited fines for unlicensed properties.

Tenants residing in unlicensed properties can appeal to a First Tier Tribunal for a rent repayment order, which permits reclaiming up to a year’s rent from periods when the property was unlicensed.

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