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About selective landlord licensing

The Housing Act 2004 gives councils the power to require residential landlords to have a licence to let property in a designated area. The act aims to improve the quality of life for all in the area by ensuring a consistent high standard of management of private rented homes.

The designated areas have a high level (more than 19%) of private rented housing. If this level is reached, we can introduce selective licensing if an area satisfies one or more of these conditions:

  • low housing demand (or is likely to become such an area)
  • a significant and persistent problem caused by antisocial behaviour
  • poor property conditions
  • high levels of migration
  • high levels of deprivation
  • high levels of crime

Aims and objectives

The main aim is to reduce low housing demand by raising standards in the private rented sector, leading to improvements in the overall social and economic conditions in the area to create a strong, healthy and vibrant neighbourhood. It should also help reduce antisocial behaviour in the area.

These are the key desired outcomes over the period of selective licensing:

  • reduce the turnover of occupants to create stable communities
  • reduce the number of empty properties and the length of time they remain unoccupied
  • reduce levels of antisocial behaviour linked to tenants in the private rented sector
  • improve private rented property conditions and increase the number of accredited homes
  • reduce problems with private rented housing that contribute to high levels of deprivation via improving housing conditions
  • improve the management of properties in the area
  • increase the number of tenants who manage their tenancy well
  • stabilise/increase rental values of private rented properties
  • stabilise/increase the value of residential premises
  • support the private rented sector to provide well-managed properties and tenancies
  • help prospective and current private-renting tenants

How the licensing scheme will help meet these objectives

  1. Landlords and agents will be more accountable for property management.
  2. There will be clear explicit standards for landlords, agents and tenants in a properly regulated sector.
  3. Landlords and agents operating in the area are fit and proper and have the ability to manage property.
  4. There will be more effective control of monitoring properties.
  5. There will be a framework for support, education and guidance services for landlords and tenants.
  6. Landlords and agents will be more accountable for the tenants who live in their property.
  7. Landlords and agents will become more visible.
  8. Tenants will become more aware of their responsibilities for maintaining their tenancy.
  9. Tenants will become more aware that they must act in a responsible manner and not be associated with antisocial behaviour.
  10. Tenants will be made aware that failure to conform to standards will lead to eviction.
  11. Tenants are reference checked before they move into property in the area.
  12. There will be a positive impact on tenants' behaviour, following an awareness of the difficulty in acquiring further accommodation coupled with improved standards accommodation.
  13. Tenants will benefit from a guarantee of safe, healthy and well-managed housing.
  14. Landlords and agents will benefit from a properly regulated sector, good public image and confidence in housing management.
  15. Bad landlords and agents will be made to improve or be forced out of the area.
  16. A licencee will be excluded where there is evidence of harassment and illegal eviction.
  17. The profile and public image of the area and the sector is raised, encouraging tenants into the market and reputable investment.
  18. The council will have more options to tackle problems in the area.
  19. Residents will have another means of reporting a problem or issues associated with a private rented property.
  20. The interests of owners who live in the same area are protected. 

Who licensing applies to

In areas where selective licensing is applied, all landlords must have a licence to rent out property.

To qualify for a licence, a landlord must be able to demonstrate that they are acting within the law and taking adequate steps to manage their properties and keep them safe. In addition, a 'fit and proper' person test will be applied to test the landlord's suitability to manage a tenancy.

Properties with a mandatory HMO licence are exempt. There are also a number of other circumstances where you do not have to apply for a licence. Please refer to The Selective Licensing of Houses (Specified Exemptions) (England) Order 2006 (opens new window) for a full list of exemptions.


Any licence holder found to be in breach of the licence conditions could face either a financial penalty up to £5000 or a prosecution. If convicted, a fine can be imposed. In this situation the council would consider whether to revoke the licence and make a Management Order, taking over the management of the property. Please refer to our Civil penalties enforcement guide for further information.

Enforcement tools

Our Private Sector Housing Team uses a wide range of tools to tackle poor property condition and inadequate tenancy management:

  • mandatory HMO Licensing
  • additional HMO Licensing
  • landlord accreditation
  • empty property enforcement
  • housing standards - Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
  • EPC - Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) England and Wales) Regulations 2012
  • The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
  • Public Space Protection Orders

Enforcement approach

If a landlord engages with the council in the first instance, they will be supported following an informal approach. However, if a landlord does not comply with the informal request, the council will take the graded approach to ensure compliance. Enforcement action will be based on risk and we must also comply with any statutory duty. Assessment of risk will be based on current legislation and specific guidance. As and when necessary, we will recover appropriate costs from those landlords who are not being proactive in managing or letting properties.

  • Stage 1 - advice given: informal approach
  • Stage 2 - warning: investigation, warning letters
  • Stage 3 - initial enforcement: legal notices, licence revocations, licence refusal
  • Stage 4 - substantive enforcement: legal notices, interim management orders
  • Stage 5 - breach: civil penalties, prosecution, final management orders 

More information

Contact us

Private Sector Housing Team
Gateshead Council
Civic Centre

0191 433 3365