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Does your rental property need a licence? – A guide to the changes in licencing for 2020

Things are changing for the property rental market in Newcastle in 2020. From April, new licencing requirements will place additional obligations on landlords in some areas, dependent on the size of the property they own and the number of occupants it is let to.


Update – Statement from Newcastle City Council:

Additional and Selective Licensing Scheme, 6th April 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the application and compliance period for the licensing scheme has been lengthened to 6 July 2020. The online application portal will remain open should landlords still wish to submit an application before 6 July 2020. 

We are aware that as a result of shielding and self-isolation some landlords have found difficulty in gaining access to properties. We are also aware that some contractors have been reluctant to carry out works during the pandemic. We, therefore, intend to extend the date in which properties should be brought up to the minimum standard by a further 3 months, until Monday 5th October.

What Is Property Licencing?

A property licence is issued by the Council to a landlord or managing agent responsible for the property, demonstrating that it has been assessed and meets the requirements for letting in that area. The requirements for each type of licence are different and relate to numbers and sizes of rooms, numbers of occupants, facilities available within the property, the condition of the property, fire and safety regulations, and the management and impact of the rental property on the surrounding area. Licenced properties will also be subject to additional controls and inspections. Whilst these requirements are fairly arduous, it is important to fully understand what you need to do and how to do it, as getting things wrong can lead to you being left with an unlettable property.

There are two new types of licencing that are being introduced by Newcastle City Council.

Selective licencing – this will apply to all smaller rental properties in five new areas of the city, in addition to the current selective licencing that already exists in Byker Old Town and Greater High Cross.

Additional licencing – this relates to ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation’ (HMO’s). A HMO is defined as any property (a house or flat) which is occupied by three or more unrelated people made up of two or more households who share facilities (such as the kitchen and bathroom) and occupy the property as their principle residence. The type of tenancy and whether or not the tenants are friends are not relevant to the definition. Certain larger HMO’s require a mandatory licence, and the details of which properties this applies to are set out in the Housing Act 2004, as amended in October 2018. All other HMO’s city-wide which don’t fall under mandatory licencing will now be covered by additional licencing.

Why Have These Changes to Property Licencing Been Introduced?

Property licencing is designed to tackle the issues which are currently being faced by the property rental market, which has grown rapidly in recent decades. Due to this growth, there is a wide variety in property standards and management. Newcastle Council are introducing additional and selective property licencing to improve property management standards across the city, ensure that properties available to let meet minimum standards in respect of quality and condition, and to try and reduce levels of crime and antisocial behaviour through the obligation for properties to be effectively managed and regularly inspected.

The two types of licence apply to different areas within Newcastle.

Additional licencing will apply to all properties with three or more unrelated occupants, across all areas of the city.

Selective licencing only applies to those areas which are specifically designated by the Council. A full list of areas affected by the new additional licencing scheme in Newcastle has been published by the Council, which includes West End Terraces, New East End Terraces, Cowgate, HHRS and Scotswood Village.

What Will You Need To Do To Make Sure Your Property Is Licenced?

All properties which fall within the areas affected by the new additional and selective licencing scheme will need to either have a licence, or be in the process of applying for one, by 6th April 2020. There is a fee payable for each type of licence.

The licence application is a detailed process which involves assessment of the facilities, condition and management of the property, and in many cases installation of new fire doors, smoke and heat detectors, and signage. Exactly what is needed varies depending on property size and the number of stories it covers, as well as how many occupants it is let or proposed to be let to.

Applications can be made online, and each will require several certificates to be supplied in order for the licence to be granted. If you fail to apply, or your application does not meet the required standards, the Council have several enforcement options available, including levying large fines or taking over control of the property.

Currently the Council have not stated how long it will take to get a licence, but with the number of properties which will need one, it is important to get in early with an application and make sure your property meets the standards and has the necessary certificates in place.

How Can Bricks & Mortar Help?

Bricks & Mortar have the experience and knowledge to make sure that you receive your licence with the minimum hassle and expense. We can apply for the licence on your behalf, and also arrange for any necessary works to be done quickly and effectively.

If you already have tenancies agreed with Bricks & Mortar, you can ask us to apply for a licence for you so you don’t have to go through the whole process yourself, or alternatively let us know your application reference, so that we can ensure all tenancies are able to proceed smoothly.