Please Note: This Article is 7 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

There has recently been a spate of councils implementing or proposing to implement extended licensing schemes for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) under the discretionary licensing regulations.

Several London boroughs including Haringey and Tottenham, plus Southampton and now Nottingham have either proposed or fully implemented extended licensing requirements.

Private landlords are angry at recent moves by these councils to impose licensing schemes where landlords can be charged up to £1000 per property for a five-year licence to operate a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

In the areas affected all privately rented flats or houses with three or more unrelated people, living in two or more households and sharing some basic facilities (most HMOs) will need a licence, unless they fall into one of the few exception categories.

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With one landlord we are aware of operating 70 HMOs, this move is a devastating and crippling blow.

Councils claim these licensing schemes are necessary to combat issues such as anti-social behaviour, overcrowding and rogue landlords.

However, landlords and their landlords associations are arguing that these schemes do nothing to solve overcrowding and that many of the so called rouge landlords will simply ignore the licensing schemes altogether and continue to operate as usual.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has said that the schemes are another box ticking exercise which will just add an additional burden and cost for those good landlords that follow the rules. They believe many Councils do not properly enforce the something like 100 laws and 400 regulations that are already available to them to tackle the problems.

HMO landlords in Southampton recently failed in a legal challenge against their city council’s licensing scheme for HMOs involving some 4500 properties.

The Southern Landlords’ Associations (SLA) has been campaigning against the local scheme, but recently had their application for a judicial review thrown out by a judge.

However, as has been pointed out by Peter Littlewood, Chairman of The Southern Landlords’ Association (SLA), this is not a total defeat for the association. Mr Littlewood said:

“Whilst we were disappointed that the judge wasn’t able to give permission to proceed, we felt that the whole process achieved the following:

  • The area proposed for licensing was reduced from Citywide to just 4 wards;
  • Changes to the fee structure downwards and incorporating staggered fees giving a substantial discount on what was originally proposed;
  • Re-Introduction of the Chartered Surveyor route, rather than the Health Officers doing inspections. This not only gave substantial cost savings, especially for the larger landlords, but gives the benefit of a “free” survey in the process;
  • The creation of the City Residential Scrutiny Committee, and a place on it for the SLA.

So we feel the whole process was worth the effort.

But we would also like to mention the willingness of Southampton Council to enter into discussions and negotiations, and their balanced approach; many authorities have been extremely unwilling to discuss anything with any landlord body.”

More recently, a group of Nottingham Landlords, through their association, The East Midlands Property Owners association (EMPO) are planning to take Nottingham City Council to court over a similar licensing scheme which will impose charges on every HMO landlord in the city.

The scheme is due to start in January and will affect around 3,000 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Landlords will be charged a one-off fee of £910 for the five years. This fee would be reduced for those landlords involved in the local accreditation schemes.

Giles Inman, EMPO’s business development officer has said that the scheme is being rolled out with little consultation and those landlords involved are feeling extremely frustrated about the move.

Mr Inman pointed out that the Southampton case, far from being the failure widely reported; the end result was in fact a vindication of the actions of the local landlords and the SLA.

Article By Tom Entwistle

Please Note: This Article is 7 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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4 COMMENTS

  1. Just found out Brighton & Hove Council introduced an additional licensing scheme in November 2012 and I have to pay £578 licence fee and may face a fine. Worst thing is I contacted them in September 2012 to confirm that I did not have to register under the National HMO Scheme and they never mentioned a thing about the new scheme even though they knew it was coming into force as I have just rung them to ask when they knew !!!

  2. Bristol City Council has introduced licensing too, but only in one ward. The consultation clearly stated the aim was to reduce anti-social behaviour. I paid up, for my HMO, which has been occupied by the same 3 people since 1989. I still live 350 miles away, I expect the licence to make no difference to their behaviour what-so-ever. Once the sign up date had passed, the Council wrote to me (for the first time) to tell me that another house, occupied for more than 5 years by a single man (not HMO) should also have been licensed, I am therefore in breach, which is a criminal offence for which I can be fined up to £20,000.
    The initial consultation to landlords stressed the need to licence as a means of reducing anti-social behaviour (how?) The consultation for tenants spoke only about the need to improve the quality of accommodation. At £1000 per property, I think it has more to do with raising money, don\’t you? I am assuming that if I am an abusive land-lord, there are already guns the Council can hold to my head. Glad to hear you are trying to oppose this nonsensical tax.

  3. I am a small landlord of very small terraced properties, which, since April, thanks to a mix of government and city council action attract council tax the day they become empty. Following some vandalism on one property, I am paying over £100 a month in council tax.
    My question to HMO landlords is \”how much do you pay in council tax\”? HMO properties are virtually never empty, always generating handsome cash flow thanks to the volume of occupiers. Do you pay extra council tax to take into the account the higher number of rentpayers, and hence, higher number of people consuming local resources paid for by council tax. If the answer is \”no\”, then why should I and smaller landlords be hit alone by the revenue raising antics of local councils?

  4. I am a Landlord based largely in the London Borough of Newham which has already established a borough wide private rental landlord licensing scheme.

    This means I have some experience of the \’consultative\’ process and the implementation of this scheme.

    I am now attempting to gather relevant information concerning the London Borough of Haringey extended licensing scheme for HMO\’s.

    I can obtain facts from the council but I would also appreciate details with factual information / experiences from landlords; letting agents and any borough wide group that represents interests of the private rental sector housing industry.

    Posting any comments or references to any PRS industry campaigning groups here would be greatly appreciated.

    Its very important that Haringey landlords and letting agents have a unified voice concerning an industry that national and local government has such a dramatic influence upon yet has limited understanding of and even less in terms of practical experience.

    The level of their meddling is a real threat to the PRS industry. Many thanks – Tony

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