Letting agencies are being encouraged to do more to help buy-to-let landlords cope with a rise in licensing activity from local authorities in recent months.
PayProp, the rental payment provider, acknowledges that updates and guidance relating to landlord licensing schemes are becoming an increasingly time-consuming part of a letting agency’s management service, but adds that they also present an opportunity to increase their value proposition.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, local authorities went ahead with a range of consultations and applications for new licensing schemes during 2020. Research released in early December by data platform Kamma found that 44 licensing consultations were in progress at the time.
The study also forecast that HMRC could collect £400m in licensing fees and fines from landlords this year, as well as an additional £2m in related unpaid taxes.
Since Kamma’s report, there have been numerous extra licensing developments affecting letting agencies and landlords.
Westminster, the borough with the largest share of the UK’s private rented sector, has launched a consultation on additional licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
Also in London, Havering Council has pledged to continue with its latest licensing scheme rollout, despite the challenges of the pandemic, while Lambeth Council has launched a consultation to double the size of its existing licensing operation.
Areas outside of London are also affected. A consultation for additional licensing in Newcastle closed at the end of January, while a consultation to license an additional 1,500 homes in Manchester has been launched.
Towards the end of 2020, Liverpool City Council lodged an application to license 45,500 properties after its initial plan to license all 55,000 rental properties in the city was turned down by the government.
There have also been landlord licensing developments in Oxford, Doncaster, Gedling and Southend-on-Sea in recent weeks.
Trade body ARLA Propertymark has described this flurry of licensing activity as “socially irresponsible”, arguing that landlords will struggle to comply with new rules during an ongoing pandemic – and that local authorities will find it challenging to enforce them.
Letting agents will now have the added responsibility of helping landlords navigate new local rules.
Neil Cobbold, chief sales officer at PayProp, commented: “In the circumstances, agencies are in a trusted position to help guide landlords through their licensing journey – giving them another opportunity to demonstrate their value in a competitive market.
“Landlords will be looking for agents’ help when it comes to responding to consultations, completing applications and meeting deadlines so they can avoid significant financial penalties for non-compliance.”