First, let me tell you a bit about me. I have personally over 34 years of experience in the property industry, not including the time spent with my dad working on projects for most of my childhood. A shovel and drill is no stranger to me. At the tender age of just 21, I purchased my first renovation property, a three-bed semi in desperate need of a full renovation. I remember vividly, crawling under the floorboards in the void space to remove all of the led piping so that I could sell it whilst having all of the plumbing upgraded. Selling this property for double the price gave me a real hunger for the property game and led me to buy and sell more renovation projects and build a rental property portfolio. I was a little wiser and a lot more eager to move on to the next. Throughout those 34 years, I’ve seen lots of change in the property industry, and there is very little that I have not come across myself. I’ve learned some hard lessons and become very knowledgeable on avoiding property investment nightmares and ensuring that you don’t have to fall into a money pit trap. Being a private Landlord is not easy and requires a fair deal of knowledge and skill; you don’t have to do it all on your own; there’s lots of help out there.
Now let’s talk about Selective Licensing. Before selective licensing came to be, I did many joint presentations with Nottingham City Council and Gedling Borough Council advising Landlords on what was coming and what they could expect. As you can imagine, Selective Licensing became the new DIRTY WORD. Good Landlords’, quite rightly, in my opinion, were up in arms at the extra expense and additional work involved. It did seem grossly unfair that the good landlords were being penalised due to the rogue landlords not playing the game and providing good quality, legal and safe properties and tenancies. Whilst I was of the same view as many of those landlords, I could also see the other side of the argument. We have a plethora of stock in the private rental sector, where landlords are trying their best to be good landlords and feel that they are doing everything right, when in fact, they are not. My favourite saying in this regard is not surprising; you don’t know what you don’t know. Some of their tenancies are not worth the paper they are written on if there is an issue with the tenant and end up in court. Some properties are downright dangerous, unbeknown to the landlord, again putting the landlord at risk. And some of the landlords were putting themselves at huge risk by not protecting deposits, or not issuing the correct notices and falling into the illegal eviction trap with fines of up to £20,000.
I started out thinking that this was all a money-making scheme by the Councils under the guise of improving our rental properties for tenants and reducing Anti-Social Behaviour in our communities (as this is a landlord responsibility under Selective Licensing). Whilst we don’t need to be a winner on the Chase to know that the Council will generate a relatively tidy sum from all of this, I can’t help but admit that the improvements I have seen in properties and tenancies have been immense.
There is absolutely no doubt that the quality of properties and the management of them has vastly improved.
It was projected that there would be over 34,000 properties requiring a Selective License in Nottingham City; and the Council has received 26,000 applications. We now have a significant number of properties under regulation in Nottingham. So what about those landlords who just aren’t bothering and are operating under the radar? If I were a betting man, which I am neither a man nor partake in betting, I would be wise to put money on the fact that the Council has a line in the sand giving them an opportunity to up the ante on those with a license. We are already seeing that happening, with many landlords approaching us after receiving emails.
In addition, I can foresee a situation whereby the Council will begin to concentrate on dealing with those properties that are not licensed and should be.
35 Selective License conditions set out your obligations as a landlord, and these have been put in place to regulate the private rental sector in Nottingham. These conditions cover; gas, electrical, and fire safety (conditions 1-11), property management (conditions 12-19), tenancy management (conditions 20-28), tackling anti-social behaviour (condition 29), change of details or circumstances (conditions 30-31), license holder training (condition 32), and interpretation (conditions 33-35).
One of the Selective Licensing conditions is that licence holders must have appropriate Landlord Training within the 12 months of the licence issue date. Currently, Nottingham City Council has upped their game and are completing compliance checks with licence holders by sending out emails with various questions with a specific deadline for responses.
I’ve found that the Council aren’t sending out the same questions to every Landlord. Interestingly, those Landlords for whom I don’t manage properties and who are coming to me for help with their Selective License compliance emails and training requirements are receiving more questions from the Council than those with properties that I manage. This is most likely to be based on the level of perceived risk within the property. For example, the properties managed by me are most likely to have interlinked smoke detection. In contrast, a property with battery-operated smoke alarms that are not interlinked would be classed as higher risk as there’s a possibility the tenant could take the batteries out. And as we all know – they do!
If I could give any advice to any Landlord right now, it would be to seriously consider applying for your Selective License if you haven’t already. If you are like me, I am only lucky for so long – eventually, luck runs out for all of us and is it worth the risk of all of those fines?