Agenda item

Additional Houses in Multiple Occupation Licensing Scheme

At the Environment Committee on 14 July 2022 Members agreed to instigating the consultation process for a proposed additional licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) for the wards Marine, Hotham and River, to cover privately rented properties occupied by three or four people making up two or more households and properties converted into self contained flats that meet the definition of Section 257 HMOs.


The statutory 10 week consultation took place between 12 June to 20 August 2023 and this report details the results and outcomes of this consultation.

[15 Minutes]


Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Principal Environmental Health Officer introduced the report to Committee. The report had originated from a Full Council resolution with two strands, the first relating to the quantity of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Planning Policy Committee had implemented Article 4 Directions in January 2023, which meant that any new HMOs in the wards of River, Hotham and Marine now required planning permission. This report related to the second strand, which was the quality of HMOs, and proposed an extension to the type of HMOs requiring a licence. Currently there was a mandatory national HMO licence scheme that required any property with five or more people forming two or more households, sharing facilities to hold a licence. The Housing Act 2004 gave Local Authorities the discretion to introduce additional HMO licensing schemes. This could be to extend the type of properties that required licensing and could apply to the whole district or certain wards. The Council commissioned a report by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and following the evidence and data provided, a public consultation took place between 12 June – 20 August 2023 on the proposal to introduce an additional HMO licensing scheme in the wards of River, Hotham and Marine. This would include properties occupied by three or four occupants forming two or more households, sharing facilities. It would also include Section 257 HMOs, which were properties converted into self-contained flats where the conversion did not meet current Building Regulations, with less than two thirds of the flats owner-occupied.


The aims of the scheme was to improve the standard of accommodation in the three wards. The report included a summary of the consultation results and feedback. There had been 99 responses to the survey, 69 being owner-occupiers, 14 tenants, 10 landlords and 6 other. 5 individual representations had been made. In summary there was agreement and support for the types of properties to be included within the scheme, the wards to be targeted and what the aims of the scheme would achieve. However, it must be noted that the highest number of respondents were from either tenants or owner occupiers, as opposed to landlords.


The HMO Licensing was a cost recovery scheme, and an analysis of the current mandatory licensing regime had been undertaken to ensure the Council had used a clear evidence base to set fees in order to fully recover the allowable costs incurred in regulating these properties. The proposed fees were shown at paragraph 4.35 and would be set for the 5 year term of the license. There was a risk to realising this income, based on the accuracy of figures from the BRE and also the risk of potential for landlords to choose to move out of the market. Resources would be required in terms of a Team Leader, HMO Officer and Technical Support Assistants, which were identified at paragraph 4.29. The additional licensing scheme, if introduced, would be for a five year period, after which time the Council would be required to evaluate its success, undertake another public consultation and a report would be provided to Members again with regards to whether the scheme should continue and/or be expanded to other wards. Currently these properties were not proactively inspected, and this scheme was a cost recovery way of introducing such a programme to enable inspections to ensure minimum standards and improve private rented sector accommodation for some of the more vulnerable residents.


          Members then took part in a question-and-answer session and the following points were made:

  • It was felt the consultation response rate was disappointing, and there was concern not enough weight had been given to landlords’ views. The Principal Environmental Health Officer agreed that the response rate was disappointing, however letters had been sent to all households and businesses within the three wards, two landlord events had been held, and the consultation had been widely publicised.
  • There was concern around the costs. The Principal Environmental Health Officer explained that they had broken down all of the costs and the admin involved in the tasks, and were confident that the fees stated would cover the cost to provide the scheme. This would be kept under review.
  • There was concern that some existing landlords may choose not to continue providing accommodation.
  • One Member stated there were differences between the fire brigade fire conditions and Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) fire guidance. The Principal Environmental Health Officer explained that the LACORS guidance needed to be followed, which was enforced by the Local Authority as they were the lead for fire safety in HMOs.
  • There was concern this would apply to homeowners taking in lodgers. The Principal Environmental Health Officer explained that where people took in up to two lodgers the property would not be classed as an HMO.
  • It was suggested that consultation in future be available in simpler English or multiple languages. The Principal Environmental Health Officer explained they had tried to provide the information as simply as possible, but took the comments on board.
  • The National Residents Landlords Association (NRLA) had offered to work with the Council to develop a dispute resolution service, and Officers views on this were sought. The Principal Environmental Health Officer explained the Council had a good relationship with the NRLA, and had responded to say they welcomed the idea of sharing best practice.
  • The letter on page 105 from a local property manager made one Member think this may not be a good idea, most of the small private HMOs were not badly managed and it could drive some landlords out of business. The Member felt Arun should not expand too far outside of its’ statutory duties, and financially It didn’t seem like a good time to be doing this.



The recommendations were proposed by Councillor Blanchard-Cooper and seconded by Councillor Worne.



          The Committee




1.          It recommends to Full Council to Designate the whole of the three wards of Marine, Hotham and River as subject to Additional Licensing under section 56(1)(a) of the Housing Act 2004 for all Houses in Multiple Occupation that contain three or four occupiers making up two or more households irrespective of the number of storeys, and those properties defined as Section 257 Houses in Multiple Occupation under Housing Act 2004. Such designation to take effect in the financial year 2024/2025 and last for 5 years, the specific date to be agreed by the Group Head of Technical Services in consultation with Legal Services.


2.           The fees for Additional HMO Licensing as set out in 4.35 be agreed for 2024/25.


3.     It recommends to Policy and Finance Committee that the resources as set out in paragraph 4.29 are agreed in order to implement the additional HMO licensing scheme within the three wards of River, Marine and Hotham.

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