Rental scheme expansion: how will it impact tenants and landlords in Bristol

Renters in Bristol will now have greater protection under a new property licensing scheme

The new property licensing scheme has gone live in three areas of the city this week; Brislington West, Bedminster and Horfield.

The plans to introduce licensing requirements, with the aim of improving housing standards, were approved by Bristol City Council’s Cabinet in December.

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The Housing Act 2004 allows local authorities to require landlords of most privately rented accommodation to license their properties.

Licensing can be applied to specific areas of the city where evidence suggests there is poor quality, or poorly-managed, private-rented housing.

How will the rental scheme impact tenants?

The private rented sector in Bedminster is 29%, Brislington West is 25% and Horfield is 31%.

Following the success of the licensing schemes in other areas, the council is looking to further improve both the accommodation, conditions and management practices in privately-rented and multiple-occupied properties of these areas.

A view of South Bristol (Credit Bristol City Council )

The proposed scheme will cover two types of licensing.

Additional Licensing will include houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) - a house or flat that is occupied by three or more unrelated people who live together and share facilities including kitchens or bathrooms.

Selective Licensing, which will not apply in Horfield, will include private rented properties that are occupied by one or two tenants, or a family, but are not HMOs.

As another step to protect renters in the city, the council is making it easier to add rogue landlords to a national database.

How will the rental scheme impact landlords?

The council’s Cabinet recently voted to approve a new policy that will allow it to add landlords into the government’s Rogue Landlord database.

If a banning order has been issued against the landlord, the length of a ban can range from two years up to an indefinite or lifetime ban.

Landlords have until Tuesday 5 July to submit their applications and pay their fee, for new property licensing scheme.

The licence will normally last for five years and conditions will be attached to the licence to ensure that minimum property standards are met and that good management practice is delivered.

Advice and guidance on the necessary improvements required to ensure the property complies with licensing conditions is also offered.

All licensed properties are inspected to ensure they meet licensing and minimum housing standards.

Where landlords do not meet the required condition standards, enforcement action may follow - including being added to the government’s Rogue Landlord database.

The Eastville and St George Selective and Additional Licensing Scheme, which ran from 1 July 2016 until 30 June 2021, saw more than 3,400 inspections carried out.

88% of these were found not to be complying with licence conditions - and prosecutions and civil penalty notices resulted in fines of more than £62,000.

What have Bristol City Council said about the rental scheme?

Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes, said: “We take the wellbeing of people renting properties across the city very seriously and we want everyone to feel confident that their home is safe and fit for habitation.

“Property licensing is one of a number of tools we are using to make sure all rented properties in the city are up to a certain standard.

“Living in a home that is in poor condition, or being badly managed, can have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of tenants.

“Although most private landlords provide a good standard of accommodation and service to their tenants, many do not. Some houses are in poor condition and poorly managed, with a significant number let to vulnerable tenants who are unaware of their rights or are not aware of the minimum standards of accommodation their landlord should provide.

“We are clear that the small minority of rogue landlords and property agents who knowingly flout their legal obligations, rent out accommodation which is substandard and harass their tenants, should be prevented from managing or letting housing.

“We will continue to lead the way in doing what we can to protect and empower people living in privately rented housing, including having a strong voice nationally to hold government to account on the long-delayed renters reform bill.

“We would encourage all landlords to apply for the relevant licenses and to work with us to help protect vulnerable tenants and make people across the city more comfortable in their homes.”

For more information on the scheme visit https://www.bristol.gov.uk/licences-permits/property-licences.