By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience.
Graham Awards


I Quit!  Landlord sells up because of “unfair” licensing regime

A landlord has quit the private rental sector after a battle with his council over why his properties were put into its Selective Licensing Scheme.

Brian Fish from Seaham in County Durham had two rental properties placed into Durham County Council’s selective licensing scheme.

But he argues that his and many other properties should not have been included, and he now has asked his MP to query the council’s methodology.


Fish says: “The scheme apparently targeted the worst areas in County Durham with 30,000 houses included from a much larger initial scheme of 60,000 houses which were to be included. The scheme is forcing landlords to pay £500 per property to DCC, which … is circa £15M to be paid by private landlords and no doubt ultimately the most vulnerable.”

Fish does not dispute the need for such schemes when appropriate, saying: “The primary benchmark set by the Housing Act is that there needs to be 19 per cent or above of Private Landlords in the affected areas. There also needs to be high levels of secondary issues such as Anti Social Behaviour, Low Housing Demand, High Levels of deprivation etc. These together may indicate that the Private Landlord Sector could be a factor and we understand that.” 

He says the Act can therefore be useful for many areas where the necessary criteria exists. However he believes the reality in Durham is it has simply been expanded into what he calls “a £15m revenue scheme for Durham County Council.”

He has disputed the council’s base line for deciding which properties and which specific areas should be included in such a scheme.

Using Freedom of Information requests and extensive correspondence with the council he says he believes that the scheme - now some two years in existence - should never have been implemented in many of the areas involved.

Therefore he is also querying with local court authorities about multiple cases against landlords, bought by DCC using delegated powers, which would appear to be based on what Fish claims to be faulty data. Fish himself is not involved in any legal action, having sold his two properties in recent months.

He adds that there’s a clear parallel with the sub-postmasters’ scandal, where a computer algorithm was considered impossible to be at fault. And he comments: “Our major concern is the tenants who are the most vulnerable and are going to be the long term victims, as landlords leave the market it’s clearly causing housing availability shortages and rent increases in the areas involved.”

Now he’s involved local Labour MP Grahame Morris, who has written to the council seeking details of the scheme. 

Although Morris is himself a supporter of selective licensing, he wants the council to explain the details of the algorithm used to determine which properties were involved, and the key performance indicators which would trigger inclusion or exclusion of certain properties.

In response to enquiries from Landlord Today, Durham County Council disputes some details of Fish’s claim and insists the scheme is not a revenue-raising device. 

It says: “This is not true – all money is ring-fenced to be spent within the scheme and the majority of spend is staffing for administering the licences and enforcement.” The council says the scheme will raise no more than £12.5m and insists it is intended to hold accountable those landlords who fail to provide appropriate living standards for their tenants.

It explains that the scheme was approved by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which was satisfied with the criteria used to include or exclude properties. The council also says the original consultation was disrupted and lengthened because of the Covid pandemic, and that when the scheme was approved and introduced, the council fulfilled all statutory requirements by advertising the details in newspapers and on websites, and including reference to it in some council emails and letters. 

Lynn Hall, strategic manager for housing at Durham County Council, says the creation of the scheme involved an “exhaustive and painstaking process” including changes to the original proposals as a result of the formal consultation.

“In approving the scheme and its designated areas, the government agreed that we had adhered to all legislation and guidance” she adds.

Meanwhile Brian Fish says he is now seeking legal advice about a possible case against the council, which could become a class action. 

Want to comment on this story? Our focus is on providing a platform for you to share your insights and views and we welcome contributions.
If any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.
Please help us by reporting comments you consider to be unduly offensive so we can review and take action if necessary. Thank you.

  • icon

    Obviously a job creation scheme for council employees.

  • icon

    Of Course it’s unfair. I feel the same I have all mine licensed multiple times with either Mandatory. Additional or Selective and with years not mostly HMO’s.
    However I don’t ever let room and think it’s totally wrong to force me to license them. When the Scheme was first being introduced they said individual single let properties wouldn’t need a licence but changed that in the last minute.
    That’s 2 girls in York that seemed to control all Government Policies on Housing, everything happened in York.

  • icon

    That was mostly HMO’’s this phone likes to change what I say.

  • icon

    Same thing happened in Ealing. My properties are not in any kind of high problem area buy they blanketed half the borough. Ealing are well know for being a predatory council in terms of targeting easy prey - first motorists, now landlords. This is the kind of think NRLA should be fighting.

  • icon

    What the council say they’ll do with the money and actually do with it are two different things. It is in my opinion a money making scheme for them - more money to waste. I have also properties in the area. One was not in a scheme then - OH - either the property moved or they adjusted the area to include it. So more money for em .

    Robert Black

    Even if the money is ring fenced 12.5 million sounds a lot to, mainly, spend on enforcement staff


    If they need £12.5 m to run a licensing scheme - that is indicative of inexcusable incompetence. You could employ 20 staff for £600k per year - how many people do they need?

    It’s either a cash grab or the council are woefully wasteful and incompetent? Which is it? I suspect a combination of both.

  • icon

    we should stand our ground and say NO

  • icon

    The money may be 'ring fenced' for the scheme but the scheme only does what the housing dept should be doing anyway! Of course ts a revenue stream! Nottingham City Council will raise £25m from their scheme. They are bankrupt - do you think that isn't a factor?

  • icon

    When the levelling down secretary approves something, you know it won’t bode well.

  • icon

    This will be just ONE reason this landlord is leaving, we all know there are many many more 😬😬

  • Nigel Spalding

    This is also going on in Southwark. There needs to be more transparency on where the money raised is going. There is a conflict of interest here: councils regulate and councils raise money in the same market. The same is true for traffic controls.

  • icon

    Council's are parasites, staffed by nasty little lefties, who couldn’t hold down a job in the real world.

  • icon

    Sorry to say it but LL's are partly to blame for the existence of these licencing schemes, as we have tended to roll over and pay for the licenses when imposed on us. LL's need to be much for militant, vocal and well organised, we should be refusing to pay and telling the general public and more importantly out tenants loudly, why we are refusing to pay for these worthless schemes that only serve the councils money needs. All costs to LL's in the end get passed on to tenants so it the tenants that ultimately pay for the money making job creation schemes designed to justify more wasteful expenditure and staff in the councils.

    Nottingham City Council bust, Birmingham City Council bust, Northamptonshire CC bust, Slough bust, Croydon bust, Thurrock bust, Woking bust and may more to come. These councils are a liability and are not capable of running a properly financially controlled organisation, so what makes anybody think they are capable policing the PRS. These licensing schemes are just a new way of finding some easy money to fill these councils financial black holes.

    It time LL's get properly organised, with an aggressive political lobby group that will fight our corner with and put stop this political money grabbing nonsense, as doing nothing is not an option otherwise it will only get worse. I'd be happy to contribute to such a lobby group by in would need to wide LL financial support to get what is needed.

    We need a national level organisation that will loudly call out the stupidity of the policies suggested by Government, Councils, Shelter, Generation Rent, Etc. We need to lobby against, the removal of S21, the increased costs caused by S24, the danger of rent control, the ever increasing regulation and additional costs placed on LL's that are ultimately being passed on to and paid by the tenants.

    Richard LeFrak

    Great Idea Bruce, and maybe we could call it something like the NRLA..!

    All joking apart we do need something and someone who will take the fight back to Government and Activist Businesses sorry Charities.


    Bruce, whereas Thurrock made a pigs ear of terrible risky investments that went wrong, most councils are suffering 13 years of Tory central funding cuts. Havering grant in 2010 was £70m pa, cut to £1.5m current year. Running costs have gone up, drastic service cuts made by Havering, more pressure on these restricted services as we now have far more elderly people plus young people re families whom have migrated here whom needing support and care in our borough than we had 13 years back. The result is that recently Havering has had to request some special government capitalisation loan against property it owns so the council doesn't go bust, and the figures don't match up that Havering will be able to pay this back as it is just plugging and immediate deficit that is predicted to rise. So what happens to the assets held when the default on that loan ultimately happens, likely within 5 years? Typical London Councils have seen 70% reduction in central government funding since 2010. So ditto other councils. Right to buy asset striped councils of their social housing assets because 80% of the money from those BMV sales were eaten up by central government and councils NEVER got the money that Thatcher promised so social housing was never rebuilt as Thatcher promised. It was not the right to buy scheme that was wrong, but that we were duped by Thatcher into believing that all the money was going back to the councils to build new social housing stock. The end result is that councils now have limited social housing and income from this, increased homelessness, council tax is much higher and residents get less services for paying it, so all in all councils are extremely financially motivated to put in place these licensing schemes as a money spinner to keep afloat. The system is broken. Whom are the winners here?

  • icon

    How many prosecutions have the council made?

  • icon

    Bruce, I agree your every word. Question is how to get a strong defensive association up and running and who would be the key people to lead it? Personally I would donate £500 tomorrow and the same each year toward achieving the objective.
    There are many capable people out there, some post on here.Let's hope people start to step forward..

    It is a comprehensive disgrace that the NRLA have ‘rolled over ‘ on almost every key issue that threatens the PRS

    Richard LeFrak

    Absolutely, I second paying 500 a year to help getting the right people. Jo and Michael would be a good starting point to have on the panel.


    £500 would be a good investment to have strong representation which would put our strong but constructive comments out to all including the media, which is sadly lacking at the moment.


    We need a replacement for NRLA!


    Any new LL association will need to be large and well funded, so that it has the teeth and frankly the financial force to afford to lobby central and local government aggressively to get more reasonable treatment for LL's, It may need to hire lawyers when required to challenge unfear or unreasonable changes to regulation and taxation.

    Contributing to political parties (on both sides) would also ensure that the association had a seat at the right table and the ear of those that have the power to make the changes the PRS drastically needs.

    An association of this kind will need to be very clear on what it want from government and the reasons why and state them clearly and widely.

    I believe that tenants, as the LL's customer can be allies if we help them understand the negative effects of over regulation, government policy and high taxation.

    LL's, Rental Agents, BTL mortgage providers, rent guarantee insurance providers, etc should all have an interest in a healthy PRS, so should be invited to be members and contributors to such a PLL association.

    I would welcome thoughts on the above.

    Daniela Provvedi

    @Peter Why Do I Bother, I second that. And would add Tricia, Andrew and Ellie.

  • icon

    It's not fair some councils have these licenses and others don't. All I can suggest is buy I areas which don't have the licence scheme. I'm in Staffordshire and I've not heard of any there. I have houses in Hull and none of them have to be licensed either. If they did I'd sell and buy somewhere without licensing.

  • icon

    Large groups of landlords penalised by local authorities knowingly on incorrect data or simply because authorities seek additional schemes for money grabbing should ALL consider Class Action where large numbers of landlords band together and take legal action against a local authority that have acted fraudulently and not upon correct factual data. It appears quite widespread around the country.

  • icon

    Bristol is introducing Additional Licensing city wide without and evidence of need except the council's own incredibly strong motivations to plug its own funding gap. The consultation process was a joke. I suspect similar situation with other councils.
    I believe there should be a legal challenge on the basis that the 'licensing service' that landlords are being forced to pay for IS NOT value for money but a blatant money making scheme. I accept that with Mandatory HMOs there are more people in the property and more regulations and may require inspections; however for anything less than Mandatory HMOs, membership of an organisation like NRLA with an online portal to upload images, electric and gas safety certificates, for your properties along with accredited landlord training would be easy and cheap to do. ie we should not be allowing councils to get away with charging £1,800 per property for a selective or additional license. It's crazy and similar to the banks being challenged for charging £40 for a failed £2 cheque etc (where it didn't cost them that to auto send a letter out, so they lost the case and had to pay out many many £millions to customers back-claims of being over charged, some clause of being not fair and equal in contract law). The high fees the councils are charging the landlords for selective and additional licences do not represent the amount of 'work' involved to charge that high fee, Bristol says it 'hopes' to visit at some point in the duration of the license. So sounds more like a get rich quick scheme to me, take your money and run, when surely the council's inspection should be carried out at the beginning before any license is issued? There should be a legal challenge and a fee cap which is what happened with the banks. If there are complaints about particular landlords properties that are sub-standard etc, re non Mandatory HMOs, then the council should just put their energies investigate that particular problem and if complaints are genuine and landlords are either abusing the system or don't make good, then interventions and fines for these particular bad landlords that are match the cost of that aspect of things.



    The banks actually won at the supreme court on a technicality after losing at high court and appeal court.

    Early repayments were made to avoid the court case but in the end they had to face the court where they eventually won and their customers lost big time.

  • icon

    if landlords were represented this would not be happening. The NRLA supported Selective Licensing in Gt Yarmouth which was a mess and made no difference to the area whatsoever. Its time for a pro active association that spent time on looking after landlords instead of its CEPO toadying up to ministers and achieving nothing for its members. They have no voice and are a joke. Its no wonder landlords are leaving the industry.

  • icon

    Robin Bradford if only I had your confidence in the system.
    All the cases thus far whether Court or Tribunal have all sided with the Council aren’t they all part of the same establishment. When did a landlord win at a tribunal or did I miss one, some have been known to be ex councillor.

  • icon

    Sounds very arkward .fishy

  • icon

    I'm not renewing the NRLA after my subscription ends.
    But I just can't get my head around how Ben Beadle and Co are actively harming NRLA members by cosying up to Gov't,and agreeing with things like removal of S21.
    Do they think we landlords are just going to keep paying them, when they are actually acting in a hostile manner towards us?
    I welcome a response from Ben Beadle on this. You certainly don't speak for NRLA members.
    Before NRLA decide on a massive issue like S21 they SHOULD be balloting their members.
    If not you are just ignoring us.


    100% agree.👍

  • icon

    Yet again local authorities taxing private landlords for their inability to supply social housing. Housing stock which was sold off and monies not reinvested in new social housing. As for them saying that the monies recieved will be used for staffing costs, what they fail to mention is that they are employing private companies to do the inspections and actively encouraging tenants to put in claims to landlords. If only there own housing groups were covered by this new tax I wonder how that would pan out .


Please login to comment

MovePal MovePal MovePal
sign up