Guidance just out from the Ministry of Housing says councils in particular should take the crisis into account when chasing select licensing fee payments and concentrate on protecting vulnerable tenants.

Local councils trying to implement HMO licensing schemes have been advised by the Government to go easy on landlords.

While many authorities have already paused inspections or consultations as they reorder priorities during the pandemic, its advice urges them all to take individual landlords’ circumstances into account where licence fee payments may have been delayed.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s guidance – ‘COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the enforcement of standards in rented properties’ – tells councils that for mandatory HMO licensing and non-mandatory schemes (selective licensing and additional HMO licensing) already in place, landlords waiting for licences should be contacted to explain potential delays.

It advises: “Take individual landlords’ circumstances into account where licence fee payments may have been delayed due to the current situation.

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“Prioritise high-risk licensable properties if this is necessary to protect vulnerable tenants and target imminent risks to health.”

Councils should continue as usual for non-mandatory licensing schemes which are already in place but, it adds: “As with all enforcement, take a pragmatic and common-sense approach to enforcement action”.

And in areas where they’re in the process of introducing non-mandatory licensing schemes, councils should consider pausing them at an appropriate point, “in line with the advice on proactive and reactive work”.

Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association, tell LandlordZONE that council resources should be focused on supporting and protecting the most vulnerable.

“Licensing schemes are not essential and we welcome the Government guidance that councils should pause schemes that are not yet in force,” he says.

“We call on local authorities to commit to following this in a spirit of pragmatism and partnership with landlords.”

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