Selective Licensing FAQs

Woking Borough Council is not alone in introducing a discretionary licensing scheme for private rented accommodation with a number of other councils across the country having introduced schemes.

What is a selective licensing scheme?

A selective licensing scheme requires all private landlords to possess a licence in order to be able to rent their property to tenants while the licensing scheme is in force in a particular area. This prevents any private property from being rented to tenants unless a licence has been
granted by the Council.

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Has the Council consulted on the introduction of the scheme?

Yes, a full public consultation was carried out between February – April 2017 and the comments received were considered carefully before the Council progressed the scheme.

The consultation was publicised through the Council’s website, consultation events, posters, local radio and information was delivered to every affected property. The Council also consulted all relevant landlord associations who represent the interests of private landlords.

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How did the Council decide to introduce the selective licensing scheme?

The decision to introduce the selective licensing scheme was made by Council at its meeting on 19th October 2017. The report and minutes from this meeting are available to view on the Council’s website.

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How was the selective licensing scheme area chosen?

The chosen area contains just over 1,800 properties of which 44% are private rented, and 19% of those are considered not to be decent homes.

The majority of prosecution cases taken by the Council against private landlords over the last 3 years in respect of poor private rented accommodation has involved accommodation in the selective licensing area.

The area boundaries have been chosen so that the area subject to selective licensing is clear to private landlords and residents.

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What area does the selective licensing scheme cover?

The selective licensing scheme covers a part of Woking town centre and Maybury, here are links to the map of the area and a street list.

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When does the selective licensing scheme come into force?

The selective licensing scheme commences on 1st April 2018 and lasts for 5 years ending on 31st March 2023.

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I didn't apply for a licence in time. What should I do?

If you didn't apply before 1st April 2018 please complete your application as soon as possible. Licence applications received after 1st April 2018 will be granted for a maximum period of one year ending on 31st March 2019. In addition the Council has a range of sanctions that it may seek to apply, including instigating prosecution proceedings (carrying an unlimited fine), issuing a financial penalty (of up to 30,000), and recovering rent paid by tenants through a Rent Repayment Order.

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How many applications have been received?

As of 29th March 2018 we have received approximately 600 applications.

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Why have the Council introduced a selective licensing scheme?

To improve the standards of private rented accommodation within a part of the borough that has a high proportion of private rented accommodation that are in poor condition.

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How do I know if my property is within the selective licensing area?

Here are links to the map of the area and a street list.

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What kind of properties will require a licence?

If the dwelling is within the designated area and it is rented out by a private landlord it would be required to have a licence. This includes houses, flats, shared houses, bedsits etc.

Social landlords such as Greenoaks do not have to licence their houses as they are not covered by this legislation.

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My flat is in a block, will it require a licence?

All separate flats that are owned by leaseholders in a building will require separate selective licences, if they are let to tenants.

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Are there any other exceptions to the above?

Some properties are exempt from licensing. A full list of exemptions can be found within the legislation. Your property is completely exempt if:

  • It is subject to a current prohibition order under the Housing Act 2004
  • It is being used for business premises
  • It requires another type of licence (e.g. a HMO licence)
  • It has a tenancy for agricultural land/holdings
  • It is managed or controlled by a local housing authority, a police authority, metropolitan police authority, a fire and rescue authority or a health service body
  • It is a property occupied solely by students undertaking a full-time course of further or higher education and where the person managing or in control of it is the educational establishment
  • The tenancy agreement has been granted for more than 21 years and where the agreement does not contain a provision allowing the landlord to end the tenancy (other than forfeiture) earlier than the term of the lease. (The house or dwelling must be occupied by the original person who was granted the tenancy or any members of their family)
  • The tenant is a member of the landlord’s family*. (The house must be the occupiers’ main residence. The person granting the occupancy must be the freeholder or leaseholder, which is for a period of more than 21 years. This lease must not contain a provision allowing the landlord to end the tenancy (other than forfeiture) earlier than the term of the lease)
  • The tenancy or license is granted for the occupancy of a holiday home, or
  • The occupier shares the accommodation with the landlord or licensor or a member of the landlord or licensor’s family

*A person is a member of the same family if:-

  • they live as a couple (married to each other or live together as husband or wife (or equivalent relationship in the case of persons of the same sex).
  • One is a relative of the other (parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin or half-blood of any of those listed, stepchild). Proof of relationships, eg. birth/marriage certificates may be required.

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How do landlords apply for a licence?

The application process is electronic and you can apply here. If you have any difficulties filling in the form electronically or downloading the document please email us at propertylicensing@woking.gov.uk

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Who should be the licence holder?

The Council can only grant a licence to someone who is in control of the property. It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that an application for a licence is made for their property; however they may not necessarily be the licence holder.

Landlords who manage their properties directly should apply for a licence in their own right. Where a managing agent is used, the managing agent could apply for the licence as the licence holder and the landlord will need to provide information about the property and give their consent.

Where a manager is employed, financial arrangements must be in place to ensure that any works deemed necessary for the proper management and maintenance of the property can be carried out as the licence holder will be the person that in law enforcement notices may be served upon if enforcement action is necessary. This should be addressed in management contracts.

Where a Limited Company applies for a licence the Company will be the licence holder.

You must be a resident in the UK to be a licence holder.

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What does ‘Fit and Proper Person’ mean?

The Council will need to apply a test to see the licence holder is suitable to hold the licence. We will look at matters including but not limited to those set out in the following list which may have arisen either in the UK or elsewhere. Conviction for a criminal offence will not automatically mean an application will be rejected.

Matters that will be looked at include:

  • Whether you have been convicted of any criminal offence including, where relevant, any spent convictions excepted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. Particular consideration will be given to offences of dishonesty, fraud, violence, harassment, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering or offences of a sexual nature or of offences relating to child exploitation or abuse, whether or not
    these offences were in the United Kingdom, and Housing Act 2004 offences or any breaches of provisions of housing or landlord and tenant law;
  • Whether you are currently the subject of any criminal proceedings
  • Whether you have been subject to any adverse finding or any settlement in civil proceedings
  • Whether you have practiced unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origin, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief in connection with carrying out business
  • Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business has been convicted of any criminal offence including, where relevant, any spent convictions excepted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975
  • Particular consideration will be given to offences of dishonesty, fraud, violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering or offences of a sexual nature or of offences relating to child exploitation or abuse, whether or not these offences were in the United Kingdom, and Housing Act 2004 offences or any breaches of provisions of housing or landlord and tenant law
  • Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business is currently the subject of any criminal proceedings
  • Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business has been subject to any adverse finding or any settlement in civil proceedings
  • Whether a spouse, business associate or controlling partner in the business, director of the company or any person with a controlling interest in the business has practiced unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origin, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief in connection with carrying out business

If you apply and do not meet the fit and proper person criteria, you will need to consider someone else to manage the property for you that will meet the test, e.g. a reputable managing agent.

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Do you need separate fit and proper person tests completed for my letting agents?

The council will work directly with letting agents to acquire the separate tests for their employees involved in the property management. You will need to advise us on the form which agency is managing your property.

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When can landlords apply for a licence?

Applications can be submitted now.

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What does it cost to apply for a licence?

All licence applications that are submitted before 1st April 2018 are free provided they contain all of the necessary information.

Applications submitted once the scheme has commenced will cost 560.

The full fee structure can be found on the Council’s website.

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What do I need to include with my application for a licence?

You will need to provide a gas safety certificate if there is gas in the property and a floor plan with measurements along with the relevant fee.

If the property is a HMO will also be required to provide an electrical safety certificate, a fire risk assessment and certification for any mains wired fire detection and emergency lighting.

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What will the licence require?

Licences will set out a series of licence conditions that govern the management and operation of the rented property. These conditions reflect the range of current regulatory requirements placed on private landlords.
What will the selective licensing scheme achieve?

Council officers will inspect all private rented accommodation within the selective licensing area and landlords will be required to remedy any deficiencies found so that tenants are not affected by poor housing conditions.

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How long will the licence last?

Valid licence applications received before 1st April 2018 will ordinarily have licences granted for the full 5 year scheme duration.

Licence applications received after 1st April 2018 will be granted for a maximum period of one year ending on 31st March 2019.

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Can I appeal against the council's decision?

You can respond to the draft licence with any representations (reasons) why you do not agree with the proposed licence conditions. If you disagree with the final licence, you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal within 28 days if you disagree with any of our decisions. You may appeal
if the council decides to:

  • Refuse a licence
  • Grant a licence with conditions
  • Revoke a licence
  • Vary a licence
  • Refuse to vary a licence

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If I sell my property is the licence transferable to the new owner?

No, licences are not transferable and the new owner will need to apply for a new licence in their name.

New owners who purchase property to rent within the selective licensing scheme area after 1st April 2018 can apply for a licence for free provided they submit a valid licence application within 28 days where the property is tenanted, or before tenants occupy the property if the property was not previously occupied by tenants.

If an owner occupier decides to rent out their property within the licensing period as long as they can provide evidence would get a free licence if they apply prior to the tenancy commencing.

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What if I am selling the property and don’t want to apply for a licence?

In certain circumstances, a landlord may be intending to sell the property or move in themselves, in these circumstances a landlord can apply for a three month temporary exemption notice. The Council will consider any request.

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What happens if the licence holder dies?

If the licence holder dies, then the licence ends immediately. However, the property is treated as if a ‘temporary exemption notice’ has been served for a period of three months. At the end of the initial three month period the representative of the licence holder can request a formal temporary exemption notice for a further three months.

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What are the consequences of not applying for a licence?

After 1st April 2018 operating a private rented property within the selective licensing area without having applied for a licence is a criminal offence. The Council has a range of sanctions that it may seek to apply, including instigating prosecution proceedings (carrying an unlimited fine), issuing a financial penalty (of up to 30,000), and recovering rent paid by tenants through a Rent Repayment Order.

Private landlords are also unable to secure possession using Section 21 possession proceedings where an unlicensed property is required to be licensed.

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Will my property(s) be inspected?

Yes, the Council is aiming to inspect every property that has a licence. In most circumstances this will happen after a licence has been issued. When the property is inspected depends on the level of risk associated with the property. A higher risk property will be inspected sooner
than a lower risk one. The level of risk depends on previous history, condition, management, etc

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Why do you contact my mortgage company?

The Housing Act 2004 stipulates we inform any other party that has an interest in the property. This will include your mortgage company as they have a right to know about the application. It is unlikely to affect our decision to licence your property.

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Why do you require plans?

The council requires floor plans to ensure properties are suitable for the number of people occupying them. All properties occupied either by a single family or on a multiple occupation basis will have a maximum number of occupiers included as a licence condition. If the property currently has more people than the licence conditions allow there will also be a compliance period after the end of the current tenancy to give people time to find somewhere new to live where they are not overcrowded. The guide gives advice on what to include in the plans.

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How long will it take for my licence application to be processed?

The Council aims to process all applications quickly, and our aim is that the draft licences will be issued as soon as possible. You will receive email updates if there are delays due to high volumes.

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I’m purchasing a property in the selective licensing area that I intend to rent out after 1st April 2018. What should I do?

Please apply for a selective licence before 1st April and benefit from not paying a licence fee and your licence can start on the date that you intend the tenancy to commence. You will need to submit a valid application prior to the tenancy commencing to avoid committing an offence.

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I am a resident landlord and have a lodger – do I need to apply for a licence?

No - where owners live in the property and rent out one or more rooms to one or more lodgers the property is exempt from selective licensing provided that the resident owner and lodgers share a facility.
However where the resident landlord has a total of 4 or more lodgers they will be required to apply for a mandatory HMO licence. There have been legislative changes requiring all HMO properties occupied by 5 or more people from 1st October 2018 these applications can be made at any time up to 30th September 2018 with the relevant fees (see HMO licensing section of website for application forms etc)

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What will happen when the 5 year scheme ends?

The Council intends to carry out all property inspections in the area and process all licence applications within the 5 year selective licensing scheme and it is not anticipated that the Council will seek to extend the scheme. If the Council wishes to extend the length of the scheme a full public consultation exercise will need to take place that explains the reasons
why.

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How can tenants find out if their property is licensed?

The Council is required to provide a public register of licensed accommodation and this can be found on the Council’s website.

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My property is currently licensed under the Mandatory HMO licensing scheme – do I need to apply again?

No, if you have a current HMO licence for a property you do not need to take any further action for that property. You will need to continue to renew the licence under the Mandatory HMO licence scheme.

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I’ve heard that the government is to extend Mandatory HMO licensing and my property will be included but it’s also in the selective licensing scheme area. What should I do?

Any selective licensing scheme licences will be passported free of charge to the extended Mandatory HMO licensing scheme when the full details are announced. Please apply for a selective licence before 1st April 2018 and benefit from not paying a licence fee as all applications for the Mandatory HMO licensing scheme carry a fee.