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.
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