Reasons for Selective Licensing in Burnley

Trinity, Gannow, Queensgate and Daneshouse & Stoneyholme 2019-2024

On 20th June 2019 the Secretary of State confirmed the Trinity, Gannow, Queensgate and Daneshouse and Stoneyholme designations which came into force on 1st November 2019.

Trinity, Queensgate and Gannow had been subject to selective licensing from 2014 to 2019. Towards the end of the schemes there was an improving picture, but these areas were still showing evidence of low housing demand.  Not continuing with selective licensing at this stage would have risked a reversal of this progress.

Proactive inspections in the Daneshouse and Stoneyholme selective licensing area had also shown that a significant number of privately rented properties were in poor condition and a high percentage of the properties had category 1 hazards, inadequate smoke detection and the absence of a Gas Safety Certificate. The council felt it was appropriate to introduce selective licensing here in addition to the other three areas, to work towards improving property condition.

Burnley Wood with Healey Wood and the Leyland Road area 2022-2027

On 21st April 2022 the Secretary of State confirmed the Burnley Wood with Healey Wood and Leyland Road area designations, which will come into force on 21st July 2022.

Both areas had been subject to previous designations from 2016 to 2021. The council assessed a number of key indicators of low housing demand to determine if licensing was still appropriate. The council determined that a significant part of the Burnley Wood area was no longer showing signs of low demand sufficient enough to justify a further scheme. The remaining parts of the area, and the Leyland Road area, had shown notable improvements, however the council and the Secretary of State were satisfied that further work was needed to build on this. Additional properties were also added to the boundaries of both areas, which we believe will benefit from the scheme.

Ingham and Lawrence Street area 2016-2021

Selective licensing was in operation in the Ingham and Lawrence Street area of Padiham from 2016-2021. The designation was relatively small, but was shown to be suffering from low demand for housing. Through targeted intervention from selective licensing and partners, over the five year designation there had been sufficient improvements in the private rented sector that the council has been able to step away and feels that selective licensing is no longer needed here.

How does Selective Licensing help a neighbourhood?

Pockets of significantly high numbers of private rented properties are exacerbating the problem of low demand through poor property management and poor housing conditions. Selective licensing helps to address the problems associated with low demand by compelling landlords who are not operating to minimum required standards to improve the management practices and the condition of their properties. This will improve the housing offer which in turn will help improve the unpopular perspective that residents have of these neighbourhoods.

Licensing ensures that all tenancy agreements contain rules about controlling antisocial behaviour and that landlords take action against any tenant breaking these rules; prospective tenants must also be fully reference checked before the grant of a tenancy. It ensures that houses rented out through private landlords or agencies are properly managed, in good condition and fit to live in.

Over the years, the aim is that the number of vacant properties in the area reduces through building a stronger, safer community where people choose to live and residents have a strong voice to tackle problems involving privately rented properties.

The continued introduction of selective licensing areas in Burnley is key to the Council’s strategy to tackle low demand, improve the quality of homes within the borough and create a balanced housing market to support social and economic improvements.

What will selective licensing achieve?

  • Improved management of private rented houses through training, advice and support to landlords, enforcing licence conditions where necessary
  • Improved condition of private rented houses through training, advice and inspections.
  • Reduction in anti-social behaviour
  • Reduction of dirty backyards and fly-tipping
  • Bringing empty homes back into use by working in partnership with the Empty Homes Team and property owners

What else is the council doing to help these areas?

Selective licensing currently runs alongside a number of other services and programmes, as part of the councils wider housing strategy for the borough. The council recognises the importance of providing good quality housing to residents of the borough, and we believe that a thriving private rented sector is a key part of this.

Empty Homes Programme

The current selective licensing areas suffer disproportionately from empty homes, which can blight a neighbourhood, attracting vandalism and antisocial behaviour. The Empty Homes programme has been operating since 2002, working with landlords to bring empty properties back into use. The council also purchases and refurbishes empty properties which are then sold on the open market. Interest free loans of up to £25,000 repayable over up to 12 years are available to landlords in licensing areas to bring empty homes back into use, and we will also pay the licensing fee of landlords who do this work through the programme.

Housing Enforcement

Selective licensing allows us to undertake proactive property checks at rented homes, to ensure that they are safe. Where officers have concerns, they work with the housing enforcement team to ensure a full inspection is completed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. The licensing team also work closely with the Housing Enforcement team to ensure that all rented properties are appropriately protected with smoke and carbon monoxide detection; protecting tenants and their neighbours.

Accreditation, Training and Support

Accreditation under our Good Landlord and Agent Scheme (GLAS) is a mark of a good quality landlord or agent. As such, the council rewards qualifying members of the scheme with a 30% reduction in their licensing fees, in recognition of this. The council continues to encourage landlords to join the scheme and in doing so, meet our Code of Practice. We also host free, in person and online training days led by qualified trainers from the National Residential Landlords Association, covering all aspects of letting, for landlords and agents operating in the licensing areas.

Preventing Homelessness

The council recognises that the private rented sector plays a crucial role in the prevention of homelessness, and we are clear that private renting needs to offer a decent alternative to owner occupation and social housing. Selective licensing has helped us to strengthen partnerships with landlords to ensure they are managing things like antisocial behaviour and rent arrears promptly and appropriately, helping to stabilise tenancies and providing housing options for vulnerable tenants. Officers from licensing also work with the Housing Advice team to investigate illegal evictions, and assist with rehoming tenants where their existing home is not suitable.

Crime and ASB

The licensing team work closely with neighbourhood police teams and the council’s Community Safety Team to tackle instances of crime and antisocial behaviour. The extra tools given to us by licensing allow us to ensure that landlords are taking appropriate steps to prevent ASB from happening (e.g. appropriate referencing) and dealing with it if it occurs (e.g. issuing warnings, escalating to eviction where serious enough). Without the licensing conditions, the council would have fewer tools available to tackle ASB at rented properties.

Environmental Crime

The licensing team support the work of Streetscene, by undertaking proactive audits to identify instances of fly-tipping and dirty back yards. Licensing conditions allow us to ensure that landlords are providing adequate bins, and making tenants aware of their responsibilities.

Are there any alternatives to selective licensing?

It is true that the council does already have some powers to tackle poor properties. Before introducing selective licensing, we considered all of these, to determine if they alone would be sufficient to tackle the problems facing the area. Below are the main alternatives to licensing:

Accreditation

The council runs a voluntary accreditation scheme for landlords and managing agents, allowing them to demonstrate that they meet or exceed the required standard. However, this is a voluntary scheme, and we cannot compel poor landlords and agents to join and be bound by the scheme.

Enforce Housing Standards

The council can inspect poor properties, and legally require landlords to bring them up to standard. However this is a reactive service, which largely requires tenants/residents to come forward with complaints. Many residents do not know they can do this, or are too concerned about reprisals to come forward. It also means tackling just one property at a time, and does not improve wider management standards.

Management Orders

The council can step in and remove properties from irresponsible landlords who are not operating properly, bring the property up to standard and manage it correctly. This is a resource intensive way to tackle the management at one property, and does not improve wider management standards across an area.

None of the above options allow the council to tackle a whole area at once; selective licensing gives the council tools to proactively examine properties and management arrangements, and take action where these fall short of the required standard.