HMO Licensing in Oxford
Oxford City Council looks to be the first local authority to introduce blanket licensing for HMOs in its area, under new powers granted in April. The new scheme will apply to every HMO in the city (apart from a few self contained flats) and will come into force on 25 October.
Oxford, a university city, has about 5,000 HMOs which is one of the highest in the country (only the large conurbations have more). According to the Local Authority web-site:
They form an unusually high percentage of houses in the city with 1 in 5 of the resident population living in an HMO. The House Condition Survey 2005 reported that HMOs provided the poorest homes in the city and that 70 per cent were unsafe.
HMOs generate over 2000 service requests/complaints a year to Oxford City Council and the number of complaints have risen steadily over recent years, despite surveys indicating many problems go unreported.
They are also associated with issues that affect the neighbourhood such as rubbish and anti social behaviour which can occur because of poor management of the property.
Many three story HMOs are already licensed under the existing licensing rules. However, Councillor Joe McManners, Board Member for Housing said:
Local residents in Oxford have told us that the Council needs to do more to control the impact of HMOs and we’ve listened to what they’ve had to say. We’ve tried using all our existing powers but they haven’t been enough to make the difference that is needed. We believe that additional licensing will provide us with those extra powers that we need and that it will have a really positive impact.
Our aim is to improve the living conditions for tenants within HMOs as they provide the worst accommodation in the City.
The cost of HMO licensing
At about £591,931 per year, the scheme will be quite expensive, although the Council are adamant that it will be covered by the licensing fees. However others are not so sure. Jan Bartlett, owner of Cowley Road firm Premier Letting, speaking in the Oxford Mail said that the cost could be prohibitive if landlords don’t pay the license fees:
The scheme will be difficult to police and bad landlords just won’t sign up
She suggested that the Local Authority save money by using local letting agents to police the scheme instead of hiring new staff. Although presumably she is not suggesting that agents perform this public service service for nothing.
Do you live in Oxford? Do you have any views on this? Will it, in your opinion, solve the problems HMOs cause in the city?
Note: Since publishing this post, Pain Smith have indicated through their blog that the the scheme has potential to be challenged, and that they would be prepared to act on such a claim on a no win fee basis. Any landlords wanting to take advantage of this, can contact Pain Smith here.