Selective Licensing – Our experiences so far

Selective Licensing is currently active in North Manchester for 315 properties, this scheme has been in place since March 2017, and has required private landlords to pay Manchester City Council £750 per property to continue letting their properties – under threat of prosecution under Section 95 of the 2004 Housing Act

As one of North Manchester’s leading letting agents, we actively manage properties within this area and have had first hand experience of the process for Selective Licensing.

We are an ARLA registered agency, we are members of the RLA, NFOPP, the NLA and the Property Ombudsman Service. These are not just fancy letters, they all mean things for the way we operate and the standards to which we keep our properties, these associations in themselves regulate our activity, we hold nationally recognised qualifications in Property Lettings and Management and we closely follow latest legislation and regulations.

We do a good job.

Why then, when we pay all of our regulating bodies an annual fee to audit and monitor our activity are we paying Manchester City Council an additional £750/property to confirm what has already been proven beyond doubt by the highest authority in the Housing Market?


What Needed to Change?

Of the 315 properties targeted in Crumpsall, we manage or own around 40 of them so are well aware of the localised and wider issues affecting Crumpsall.

One of our regulatory bodies, the RLA, says this about selective licensing:

“An area may be designated for selective licensing either (i) if the area is (or is likely to be) an area of low housing demand or (ii) the area is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti social behaviour and some or all of the private sector landlords are failing to take action to combat the problem that it will be appropriate for them to take.”

From our experience, Housing Demand in Crumpsall is no lower than other areas in North Manchester, the entire city has high demand for housing, with a booming population and an ever expanding City Centre, affordable and accessible housing is at a high premium. Anti-social behaviour is somewhat out of our remit, we ensure the tenants renting our properties are of good standing, they keep their homes well and they can afford and do pay their rent on time, but anything above neighbour disputes of noise or rubbish, antisocial behaviour is wholly outside our sphere of influence as managing agents or as landlords. The third clause about Private Sector Landlords “failing to take action to combat the problem that it will be appropriate for them to take”, is a little vague, but as ARLA registered agents, we have rules and requirements in place for ensuring we are fit and proper persons to be managing the properties.

Was the problem the landlords, was the problem the demand for property or was the problem Anti-Social Behaviour?


Whats the Point?

Every property that we manage in Crumpsall has passed its Licensing Check to date, we had some disputes; at one inspection, that we didn’t attend with the council, they reported we were not eligible for a license for that property because there were no smoke alarms in the property. Immediately we called the tenant, popped round, and as they opened the door, we saw the downstairs smoke alarm in the hallway and within a minute we had checked and verified both smoke alarms in the property were correctly installed and working. When we queried the council, they admitted they had got the property “mixed up with another one”.

At £750 per property and potentially a landlords livelyhood at stake, is this really the kind of mix up that we want to be seeing by Manchester City Council?

Since 2015, If we let a house to someone without smoke alarms, we would be liable for recourse from: ARLA, NLA, RLA, NFOPP, Property Ombudsman and a £5000 civil penalty from the Government. We would be fined, our memberships stripped and we would not be able to operate as an agent.

Whilst its very positive that Manchester City Council are concerned and actively ensuring the safety of its residents, Licensing only applies to the private rented residential sector. Housing Associations/Local Authority housing is exempt, Owner Occupiers are exempt, Student Halls are exempt, live in landlords are exempt and care homes are exempt. So actually, the only properties that are liable are those which are privately rented.


Fit & Proper Persons

Selective Licensing essentially is a 5 year certificate to say that you can rent out one particular property. You are checked to be a “Fit and Proper Person”- essentially this is like a Landlords DBS Check, they look for:

  • any criminal convictions to do with violence, drugs, sexual offences or fraud
  • whether we have broken any laws to do with housing or being a landlord
  • whether we have been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
  • whether we have previously managed House(s) in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and broken any approved code of practice.

and they do this for every single property. Just like the ill thought out DBS checks, its a repetition of work and a waste of resources- checking this 40 times in as many days, will not produce any different results, but will keep someone busy and generate £30k of income for the council.

Why are Manchester City Council choosing to line their own pockets at the expense of landlords, agents and ultimately private rented tenants?


Do we agree with Selective Licensing?

Yes and no.

We recognise, accept and embrace the need to raise housing standards across the city. We absolutely agree that the rogue landlords and those providing housing that is not fit for habitation need to be cracked down on and dragged to standard.

But, we do not agree that reputable landlords, agents and those working well within the law should be further penalised to make up for the failings of others. Especially when Selective Licensing has been a scheme run in the past and was proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was at best ineffective and a major contributing factor to increasing rental rates in an area.


How Could it Improve?

The same scheme has, this week, been rolled out in areas of Rusholme and Moss Side, although Crumpsall was a “pilot”, it seems no changes have been made to the way the system runs and no lessons learned from implementing the initial wave of Licenses.

As the regulations and controls for rogue landlords are already in place by governing bodies, why hasn’t Manchester City Council considered teaming up with reputable and regulated agents, offered an affordable and mutually cooperative package for Licensing to ensure standards are raised and upheld by agents, and Landlords who self manage then have the option to be Licensed and monitored by the council OR use an already licensed agent who then takes liability for maintaining standards.

With over 60% of Manchester Private Rented sector Landlords already using an agent, this would give the landlords choice, the local agents an opportunity to lead the raising of standards, save the council resources AND ultimately prevent the entire burden of the cost of licensing ultimately landing on the tenants lap.

Right now, the way this scheme works, will do nothing to help tenants with affordability.





DSS or Dogs?

Yesterday a very intersting article was published on the BBC website: No DSS: Most flat shares refuse benefit claimants

It claims that landlords are twice as likely to accept potential tenants who own pets than people who claim benefits.

The article goes on to look at the case of one particular tenant, Eva, who is a single parent, working full time but having her low wage subsidised by Housing Benefit. Day in day out we come across numerous people like Eva, hard working, honest people who have become victims of a stereotype and face discrimination due to their circumstances. We do not recommend or condone lying about your circumstances to obtain a rental property, often with our tenants it is the case that we can sit down and work together to agree affordability and help find a suitable property, as we understand the local market and our landlords tend to be receptive to tenants in receipt of benefits.

The private rented sector has doubled in size since 2002 and now accounts for 20% of all UK households, recent cuts in welfare means benefit payments in many parts of Manchester no longer cover the rest.

You can see our thoughts below on this short video regarding renting to people on housing benefit


Every week our Lettings Manager, Joe, makes a short video in response to enquiries throughout the week, if you’re interested in viewing more of our videos you can do so on our YouTube Channel

Is “Buy-to-List” the New Buy-to-Let?

Some people have been saying that traditional buy-to-let is past its sell-by date and that new players such as AirBnB are set to disrupt the entire model. It has certainly been the case that in cities with young populations such as Manchester, London and Brighton, we have started to see a new breed of landlords buying property in order to let it out for very short-term lets.

These may be what are referred to as “party pads” – accommodation for people coming in from other parts of the country, or abroad, to spend the weekend partying. Alternatively these properties can be marketed as holiday lets at very high rents during vacation periods, with often no attempt to let them at other times.

However, the whole AirBnB rental arrangement in big cities looks like it might be strangled at birth. And once again, those crying out that traditional buy-to-let is over look likely to be proved wrong.

For those unfamiliar with how it works, AirBnB allows landlords to list their properties at the price they choose for short periods. If you saw the recent TV ads, you’ll have been given the impression that this is a flat sharing site for young travellers who want to experience life in another city. The reality, at least in our big cities, is somewhat different.

People who live in blocks of flats in London for example, have found increasing numbers of flats rented out to very short-term tenants which means a constant procession of strangers in and out of the building. Added to this, where traditional buy-to-let adds to the housing stock available across a range of income groups and household types in any city, short-term lets can take housing stock out of supply. This is because what were residential units essentially become short-term holiday homes – in other words you have mini hotels springing up everywhere, that are not licensed.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is only the latest leader of a major city to put up a red flag. He is going to investigate what impact these short-term lets us having on the capital’s housing supply and has said that he is prepared to take a look at the relevant legislation. With 42,000 listings in London, he probably needs to. He referred to the “negative amenity impacts” of these lettings. Quite what this means is anyone’s guess.

However he went on to speak more plainly about the concern that permanent housing is disappearing into short term lettings.

The residential landlords Association (RLA) did some research into those short-term lettings on-air B&B that were available for more than 90 nights – in other words, that appeared to be a professional rental. They found that 65% fell into this category. A relaxation of the law in London last year allowed people to rent rooms for up to 90 days a year on short-term lets. It may have been this that created the boom in AirBnB lets in the capital.

All of a sudden, Khan is making it clear that the much vaunted “sharing economy” is going to have to be balanced against protecting local residents and making sure that housing is kept for long-term use. He said that he intends to talk to the boroughs to see if the legislation needs revising.

New laws to curtail Airbnb lettings have already been introduced in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, New York and San Francisco (the latter must hurt particularly since that is AirBnB’s home city).

So what about Manchester?

It has to be said that AirBnB listings in Moston seem to be mostly single rooms in occupied houses, so the party economy may have some way to go before it affects M40 lettings. However, it’s clear that flats in central Manchester are definitely being listed on the site.

The French, who as we know, do not tend to mess about once they have decided something is unacceptable, have been raiding “illegal” AirBnB apartments in Paris, particularly those that have been bought purposely as – well, it’s not really buy-to-let – perhaps we need to invent a new term – “buy-to-list”?

Like Uber, which recently lost a tribunal case on whether its drivers were self-employed, AirBnB is finding that its business model is not quite as straightforward as it thought, and that local councils, laws and politics may throw a major spanner in the works as far as its operations are concerned.

A Quarter of Landlords Want Out Because of Tax Changes

The Telegraph reported this week that 25% of buy-to-let landlords intend to sell the properties they are currently renting out, because of the government’s campaign of swingeing tax increases in the sector.

Unintended Consequences of the Tax Grab

This news has caused alarm not just in rental circles but throughout the professional property market, because such a large volume of property hitting the market at the same time could destabilise the entire sector. Another factor here is that rental properties are often concentrated in certain areas. Many landlords favour terraced or semi detached houses in reasonably modest areas because the prices are lower but rents are still reasonable, giving a workable investment yield.

The property market is always essentially local, as landlord advice in Manchester shows. In a local area, a large number of buy-to-let landlords selling up at the same time will definitely affect house prices. In fact if landlords feel that they need to beat a rush to market they will get in early and market their properties at higher prices, hoping to avoid a stampede of rental properties on the market once the buying season starts in spring.

The other undesirable effect of a wholesale dumping of buy-to-let investments will be that rents will rocket upwards because the property being sold will not be bought by other investors but by homeowners. This will remove large amounts of rental property from the market and cause major problems for those tenants who simply do not have the option to buy a property. As a result, the demand for council properties will almost certainly increase.

Nearly 1,000 experienced buy-to-let landlords were surveyed by the Residential Landlords’ Association and the results were pretty staggering. Almost 25% have either already sold their properties or are planning to sell them as a result of the government’s decision to stop mortgage interest being offset against rental income when landlords are working out their taxes.

The draconian changes to taxes on rental income were announced in the 2015 budget but will not come into effect until next year. The tax changes are hardest on those landlords who pay tax at the higher rates (40% or 45%) and those who have bigger mortgages. Taxpayers who aren’t on the higher rates so far, may find that because their taxable income has gone up, they are transferred into a higher rate tax band, a double whammy.

Tenants to Bear the Brunt

Tenants are going to bear the brunt of the new tax regime – not only will they find that there are far fewer rental properties around, but those that remain will be at significantly higher rents. The reduction in supply will of course mean that since demand is still constant, rents on available properties will rise, and landlords will need to make more from their property in order to get a yield that makes the investment sensible.

In fact a previous study found that nearly 60% of landlords were intending to increase their rental charges to offset the loss in income caused by the tax changes. Kent Reliance building society carried out a survey in June that found that landlords planning to increase rents were looking at an average figure of 5.6%.

Each Year Will See Further Effects

The tax changes are not coming in all at once one but are being phased in over a number of years and won’t be fully implemented until 2020. Therefore we should be able to see the effect that the changes are having year-on-year. Any changes in the first year in terms of landlords selling their properties and tenants finding that rents are rising can be expected to be magnified in every year that follows.

And the Icing on the Cake…

The detrimental effects on tenants and on local property markets described above, will be magnified by the sneaky new rules that state that when a lender offers a loan on a buy-to-let property, to a landlord who owns four or more properties, the lender will have to financially assess their entire portfolio.

The official reason given for this is that the more properties a landlord owns, the higher their mortgage arrears are likely to be. The actual effect will be that lenders will make fewer loans to landlords who own multiple properties, so the few landlords left in the game will not be able to buy new property.

It’s no way to run a housing policy.

Section 24: The Consequences for Tenants

The Section 24 debate rages on. This is the part of the Finance Act 2015, which changed the rules on landlords being able to claim back mortgage interest and offset it against rent, as well as increasing their taxes.

The property site Property118 recently featured a series of discussions with landlords, highlighting the consequences that Section 24 has had so far for their businesses. In fact, as will become clear, it’s more a case of the consequences that Section 24 has had for the tenants, not least those tenants who are on housing benefit. The site is actually collecting views from landlords that can be used in discussions with politicians, local councils and housing charities.

There are some revealing stories from landlords. As expected, in order to stay in business, many are having to pass on the rises in costs which they have suffered as a result of Section 24. If they don’t do this, they basically no longer have a business. A landlord named John explained that he had had to tell a tenant that rent would be going up, after being held for two years. That tenant moved on. He is now going to have to tell a number of other long-term tenants (some in residence for more than eight years) that their rent, too, will be going up. Tenants in M8 lettings can expect similar news.

This landlord gives his tenants a discount for being a responsible tenant. He is expecting the tax on each property to increase by about £2,000 a year. In order to break even given the new levels of taxation and the loss of mortgage interest tax relief, he would have to put his rents up by 20%. But the tenants will not be able to pay this, and he is therefore thinking of selling his properties which he had intended to provide his pension income.

Another landlord, Martin, pointed out that these extra taxes were not included in the Conservative party’s manifesto. He charges new tenants the market rate for their rent but after that he increases the rent very little, and some have no further increases for many years. All of these tenants now face very large rises in rent as he attempts to balance the books.

He feels that it is particularly unfair on landlords who have one or two buy-to-let properties and also work, because they are the ones that will fall under higher rate taxation with the result that they will barely be covering their costs. He feels that if mortgaged buy-to-let landlords are forced to sell, it will be to the great advantage of un-mortgaged landlords who will be able to step in and pick up properties very cheaply, and that this is a form of wealth transfer. The gainers will be the very rich with large buy-to-let portfolios, or corporate landlords.

Another landlord, Colin, has tenants who are mostly on housing benefit, but some of these have lived in his houses for over 10 years and all of his tenants are long-standing. He charges rents based on LHA which are therefore below market value. He wrote to his tenants some months ago warning them that rents would have to go up and that he would have to dispose of some of his houses.

One family could not afford any increase in rent and has gone to share the same property as other members of their family. Another tenant has asked for notice in the hope that they will be rehoused by the council. Other tenants have agreed to an increase of 15% in their rent – still below market value.

He feels that people are becoming homeless, and that very poor people who are already stretched are having to find more money for rent.

Another landlord, Chris, says that he has never increased the rent of an existing tenant. He owns 39 properties and half of his tenants are on some kind of benefit, including in-work benefits for people who on tough employment contracts. Some tenants have been with him for nine years and in total he provides housing for about 70 people.

There are other landlords in the conversation and three things come up repeatedly. First, that all of these landlords are going to have to put up rents. Second, that many of them are thinking of selling out at least part of their portfolio. Third, that they will never ever vote Conservative again.

Renting in One of Manchester’s Best Up-and-Coming Suburbs

Located just three miles away from the cosmopolitan city centre of Manchester, the area of Blackley offers a number of attractions for renters and the Blackley rental market is buoyant. It offers excellent public transport services, as well as strong road links to Manchester itself, neighbouring towns and villages, and the rest of the north west. Blackley has long been popular with renters of all ages, despite its sometimes slightly dubious reputation. Thanks to several new developments, including a variety of contemporary apartment buildings, Blackley will continue to appeal to renters and landlords alike well into the future.

Who Rents in Blackley?

Blackley is a diverse community with young families, couples, older families and retirees all living side by side. It has traditionally appealed to those who want to be close to the attractions of Manchester city centre, but who are either priced out of the centre itself or don’t want to live in the heart of the city. Blackley is popular with those who work or study in the city, and offers a number of different housing options to renters, including traditional red brick terraces, modern semi detached houses, contemporary apartments or smaller studio properties. As the area boasts such excellent public transport links, it is not necessary for those who live in the district to own a car, opening up the possibility of a far wider variety of potential renters.

Excellent Public Transport and Road Links

Blackley is serviced by a number of popular and busy bus routes, which offer frequent and quick journeys into the city centre. The area also enjoys strong links with other towns and villages on the Manchester outskirts, making it perfect for commuters who work all over the north of the city or in the city centre itself. Blackley is also served by the region’s popular Metrolink tram system, providing a convenient alternative to bus routes. Popular destinations such as Altrincham and Bury are easily reached via the excellent Metrolink network, as well as, of course, Manchester city centre.

The formidable M60 is within easy reach of Blackley, and actually acts as a border to the area. Located to the north of Blackley’s residential areas, the M60 provides quick and easy access to the rest of the north west region. Manchester city centre is also only a short drive from Blackley, although many regular commuters prefer to rely on bus or tram services to avoid getting stuck in busy traffic at peak travel times.

Blackley for Families

Blackley offers many attractions to families looking to rent in the area. It’s extremely conveniently situated for access to Manchester city centre, but also offers a number of amenities that will appeal to those with children of all ages. Blackley has several attractive parks, perfect for children to let off steam. The green spaces at Tweedale Common, Irk Valley and Nutbank Common are all within easy reach, as well as the locally famous Boggart Hole Clough. Offering a number of popular and enjoyable walks, Boggart Hole Clough has recently undergone an extensive programme of improvements to increase its appeal to local families and residents. The green and pleasant park has a variety of sports facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, as well as popular football pitches. The park hosts events throughout the year, some of which attract a large number of people from the surrounding areas. As well as firework displays each Guy Fawkes Night, the park also hosts summer family fun days designed to appeal to kids of all ages.

Blackley Amenities

Blackley has its own golf club and cricket club, both of which are well established and are great social hubs. The area is also well served by shops, including local independent retailers as well as famous high street chains. You’ll also find an impressive indoor market, and a modern and popular library.

Blackley Property

Traditional red brick terraces in various states of repair can be snapped up for as little as £60,000, but such bargains are becoming increasingly difficult to find. At the other end of the house market, it’s not unusual to see prices of around £300,000 and above for brand new semi and detached homes. These properties are attracting a new type of renter and homeowner to Blackley, and look set to enhance the reputation and appeal of the area over time. Luxury and modern apartments in the area can be found for less than £100,000, and the big appeal of these for landlords is that they will not generally need any work before they can be rented out, and they also tend to be fairly easy to market.

Harpurhey: A Popular Choice with Renters

Located just three short miles from Manchester city centre, the district of Harpurhey is an established community of 18,000 inhabitants. The area boasts all manner of amenities, and enjoys excellent public transport links to Manchester and the surrounding towns. It has long been popular with renters of all ages, particularly those who need to be within easy reach of Manchester city centre for work or study.

The district of Harpurhey is ideally suited to those who want to live close to the heart of the city, but are unable or unwilling to pay the higher property prices of more central districts. Harpurhey has had something of a rough reputation in the past, but its vibrancy and diversity makes it an attractive destination for many looking for an affordable home.

The Harpurhey rental market offers a wide choice for renters, with traditional two-up, two-down terraced homes, larger family properties, and a number of modern flats and apartments suitable for singles and couples. Prices start at an extremely reasonable level, offering landlords a good return on investment, and the area is always popular with renters. Harpurhey encompasses a number of well-known estates and developments, including the Kingsbridge Estate, the Shiredale Estate and the Baywood Estate. It is bordered by the areas of Moston, Monsall and Cheetham Hill.

Excellent Road and Transport Links

Harpurhey is situated approximately three miles north east of the city centre and has strong public transport connections to Manchester. Although the area does not have its own train station, it is extremely well served by a number of regular bus routes, making bus travel a popular choice among commuters. It is also within easy reach of the nearby towns of Salford and Oldham, both of which are accessible via bus. The two nearest Metrolink tram stations are a short distance away at Monsall and Central Park North.

The Rochdale Road (A664) serves the Harpurhey district, and offers easy access to the M60 and Manchester city centre. The M60 is one of the north-west region’s major motorways and links up with a number of popular destinations. Harpurhey’s excellent road and motorway links mean the rest of the north-west is within easy reach, making it a convenient location for anyone who frequently travels.

Harpurhey Amenities

Harpurhey is well served when it comes to local amenities. The state of the art North City Library can be found on the busy Rochdale Road in a bright, modern building it inhabits with a local college. The building is something of a local landmark and is popular with residents. It is easily recognisable thanks to its innovative solar panels and contemporary design. North City Library offers extensive lending services, as well as free internet access., and is also the meeting place for many societies and groups who host events in the building.

Another draw for renters is the impressive North City Family and Fitness Centre, which is popular with all ages. The 25-metre pool has a number of classes and a variety of different sessions available for specific age groups or requirements. The fitness centre also offers a health suite, fully equipped gym, and a number of spa facilities, including saunas and steam rooms. There is a full programme of fitness, aerobics and conditioning classes available for all abilities, ages and fitness levels.

Harpurhey is also well off for shops, both high street chains and independent retailers as well as large supermarkets. The local market is open on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday every week and attracts thousands of shoppers from Harpurhey and the surrounding areas.

Outdoor Living

Despite its reputation as being a somewhat undesirable area in which to live in past years, Harpurhey has a number of pleasant green spaces that are very popular with families. Queen’s Park was one of the UK’s first municipal parks and has been enjoyed by local residents for over 150 years. There are extensive play areas for children, as well as scenic areas and rose gardens. There are a number of events hosted in the park throughout the year, including nature trails organised for local schoolchildren.

Harpurhey Rental Market

Harpurhey has a number of choices for renters, and prices to both purchase and rent property are generally far more affordable than in city centre areas. Landlords looking to invest in Harpurhey property can expect to find small terraces on the market for as little as £70,000, and these home remain popular with local renters. With a budget of £100,000, investors will find a wide variety of terraced houses and flats available. Anyone looking to invest in newer, more modern property will be pleased to learn Harpurhey also has a number of new developments, sure to be popular with families for years to come. The Kingsbridge Road area offers homes with attractive gardens and all mod cons, making them easy to rent out.

Ashley Lane, Moston, M9

£ 650 per Month
£ 600 per Month

Stovell Road, Moston, M40

£ 450 per Month

Romney Street, Moston, M40

£ 575 per Month

Cicero Street, Moston, M9

£ 650 per Month

Moston Lane, Moston, M40

£ 700 per Month

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