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Introduction of new licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation

A new licensing scheme aimed at improving conditions for occupiers and addressing issues that can affect neighbourhoods will be introduced for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) from 1 April 2019.

It will require landlords to meet important quality and safety standards before an HMO is let.

This regulatory regime will also be linked to planning, ensuring that the concentration of HMOs is managed.

Belfast City Council will manage the licensing scheme on behalf of all local authorities in Northern Ireland. More information is available on their website at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/nihmo.

Belfast City Council will also launch an advertising campaign to include online, radio and newspapers, to ensure landlords and tenants are aware of the change in responsibilities. It is intended that all local councils will share this messaging and information widely.

The licensing scheme will be managed by the NI HMO Unit based in Belfast City Council; they will process applications and enforce the regulations across NI, ensuring the terms and conditions of the licences are complied with by landlords.

The decision on whether to award a licence will be the responsibility of the local council in which the HMO is located.

The new system will work more effectively because HMO regulation will be linked to other critical functions, such as planning, building control and environmental health, all of which are under the responsibility of district councils.

David Polley from the Department for Communities said, “From 1 April 2019 Councils will be responsible for HMO regulation carrying out checks and inspections to ensure that the property is suitable for the specified maximum number of persons intending to occupy it.

“This is about improving the quality of this type of private rented accommodation and is something which should be welcomed by landlords, those living in HMOs and those living around them.

“Well managed multi-occupancy houses are an important part of the housing market in Northern Ireland. New licensing arrangements will mean councils will be expected to work with landlords and owners of HMOs to ensure flats and houses are safe and well maintained,” he added.

Source: Newry Times

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Landlords face stricter rules over property cleanliness

Landlords in Glasgow are facing stricter rules on how they operate their properties.

The new regulations are aimed at curbing the impact that houses of multiple occupancy (HMO) can have on communities.

The conditions, which cover cleansing issues, repairs to common property and dealing with neighbour complaints, have come into effect following a review by Glasgow City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

The review identified concerns linked to the presence of HMOs in neighbourhoods across the city, particularly where there are high concentrations of this type of rental property.

High levels of refuse from HMOs being left in back courts and lanes has been a common complaint to the Council, with a surge in bulk waste being dumped at the end of the academic year also being raised as a recurring problem.

William Beckett, Garnethill Neighbourhood Watch, has welcomed the changes after a landlord in area was penalised repeatedly for the rubbish left in his back court.

William Beckett, said: “I hope this is enough to stop it and I just hope that all landlords take heed of the new conditions.

“It gives them more power as well with their tenants to say look this has got to stop, these are the new rules, you’ve got to comply with these conditions, failing that then you’ll have to leave.”

Public consultation feedback also focused on difficulties with securing support from HMO landlords for repairs and maintenance to common parts of flats.

How to deal with noise and other anti-social behaviour was also flagged as a source of on-going disputes.

Councillor Alex Wilson, Chair of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee, said that striking a balance between the needs of neighbourhoods, residents, HMO tenants and landlords was essential.

He said: “I’m hoping to see a massive difference in the number of complaints that we get especially from community councils which is where the majority of complaints do come from.

“I would like to think that if there is an example to be set then hopefully the private rented sector will see the same changes, everyone will benefit.”

The new conditions for HMOs will cover:- general refuse ; maintenance, insurance and repairs of common areas; bulk refuse; neighbouring residents and statutory notices.

All of these conditions will be incorporated into a new code of conduct, which will apply to all HMO licence holders.

As part of the new conditions, a pilot project will be operated through the cleansing service provided by the council’s Neighbourhoods and Sustainability department.

The pilot will involve landlords notifying the council in advance of flats being cleared of items at the beginning or end or the academic year to ensure bulk waste is reported for collection.

By Susan Ripoll

Source: STV

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Residents voice their frustration as plans for HMO are granted on appeal

Frustration has been voiced after plans to create a six-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO) in Wrexham were granted on appeal.

During November, members of the local authority’s planning committee rejected proposals to convert an existing house on Beechley Road in Hightown to accommodate a total of seven people.

It came after they carried out a site visit where concerned residents carrying placards raised issues over parking and fly tipping as a result of the six existing HMOs on the street.

The Beechley Road Residents’ Association also presented a petition with 90 signatures against the development.

However, the decision to refuse the scheme has now been overturned by a planning inspector appointed by the Welsh Government.

Cllr Graham Rogers (Lab), who represents the area, said the news had left him angered.

He said: “It’s very frustrating and disappointing. There’s already a number of HMOs along Beechley Road and now we’ve got another one.

“There’s going to be traffic issues because of where it is at the end of the road.

“What’s the point in having a planning committee when someone who sits in an office about 150 miles away can change the decision?

“I’d like to thank the residents who helped to fight against it. It’s so frustrating, but what more can you do?”

Council officers had originally backed the plans for approval as they said they complied with all the authority’s policies.

But an alternative recommendation for refusal was put forward by councillors on the grounds of parking and access issues, which was approved by eight votes to four.

In his decision notice, planning inspector Iwan Lloyd concluded that the proposal would not harm road safety.

He said: “In my view the proposed access would be satisfactory in relation to visibility and sight stopping distances.

“On-street parking may impede visibility but there are numerous vehicle entrances serving properties in the vicinity of the site and there is no evidence to indicate that these are not operating safely.

“Turning to the second reason for refusal, the council’s highway engineer confirms that the proposal complies with planning guidance which seeks a maximum of four car spaces.

“This is exceeded in this case and the proposal would provide for secure cycle storage.

“The site is situated in a sustainable location and on-site car parking provision could accommodate visitor parking in this instance which should overcome the council’s and residents’ concerns.”

Mr Lloyd said he had also considered representations regarding the over-concentration of HMOs on the street, issues with the potential behaviour of future tenants and problems with bin storage.

However, he said such matters did not form part of the council’s reasons for refusing the application and did not outweigh his decision.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter 

Source: Wrexham

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Landlords warned of £30k licensing fines

Landlords who run houses of multiple occupation without a licence could now be fined up to £30,000.

Telford & Wrekin Council has begun searching for landlords who are breaching a new law around the running and managing of HMOs.

The change came into place on October 1 last year, meaning that any rented property with five or more people living as two or more households now requires a licence.

Previously, only HMOs that had three or more storeys with five or more people required a licence, but that is no longer the case.

It means all HMOs falling under this new definition have to have a licence by law.

Other rule changes brought in by central government also mean new minimum room sizes apply to properties and a requirement to comply with the local refuse rules.

Enhanced

Landlords who renew their licenses will have to adhere to new enhanced conditions.

Last year, Telford & Wrekin Council, which is issues the licences, gave prior warning of the law change and advice on what to do.

After October 1, it granted landlords a further period of grace for applications. The council’s officers were out earlier this month and found a number of unlicensed properties. It is now warning HMO landlords who have not licensed their properties that they may face enforcement action.

Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for housing and enforcement, said: “We gave landlords plenty of warning before the new law came into force last October, then we gave them extra time to help them get their heads around the new rules, complete a DBS check and submit their applications.

“Now our officers will start to investigate those who haven’t licensed and, where they find a property that should have been licensed but wasn’t, action may be taken against the landlord. Anyone found to be operating and/or managing a House in Multiple Occupation can be prosecuted or issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to £30,000.”

By Mat Growcott

Source: Shropshire Star

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Haringey Council additional HMO licensing

Between 11 December 2017 and 5 March 2018 Haringey consulted on a borough wide Additional Licensing Scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). As with most other new schemes Landlords will be required to have a licence if they rent to three or more people from two or more households starting 27th May 2019.

The the Council say the schemes “have been designed to improve the condition of private rented homes, reduce anti-social behaviour and support landlords by providing guidance and support.”

The proposal is to introduce:

A borough wide Additional Licensing Scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and a Selective Licensing Scheme applying to all private rented properties in 29 defined areas across the borough

“We’re committed to providing residents who wish to rent in Haringey with good quality, safe accommodation which is managed by responsible landlords or letting agents. This means working with landlords to create a more professional rented sector, and tackling those who mistreat or fail to provide a good, safe home to their tenants.

“To help achieve this, we have introduced licensing for all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) so that more landlords will have to hold a license before they can let out their homes. These licenses require landlords to keep their homes in good condition and ensure high standards of management, or risk enforcement from the council.

“On 12 February 2019 Haringey Council designated the whole borough subject to additional HMO Licensing. The scheme becomes operative on 27 May 2019 – anyone found to be operating an unlicensed HMO after this date will be committing an offence and will face enforcement action.”

For the Haringey licencing page click here

“How can I apply

We are currently working on introducing an online licence application and payment system. This is currently not available, so applicants will need to complete a paper application form until further notice.

All the information you need to apply for an Additional HMO Licence can be found on the Apply for a HMO licence page.

What is the cost of Licensing

The Licensing Fees have been amended and will now be taken in two stages.

  • A £500 fee will be paid on application a further £600 fee will be taken before your licence is issued
  • The total fee for licensing an HMO is £1,100

Further charges and discounts may apply to your application. See the Information on HMO licence fees and licence periods (PDF, 54KB) for further information.

Apply early and receive a discounted early bird licence fee

A financial incentive is available for compliant landlords – apply for an Additional HMO Licence before 27 May 2019 and pay a discounted Licence fee payment of £500.”

Source: Property118

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Glasgow to introduce stricter licensing conditions to curb impact of HMOs

Landlords in Glasgow are facing stricter new conditions on how they operate their property as part of an effort to curb the impact that houses of multiple occupancy (HMO) can have on communities.

The conditions, which cover cleansing issues, repairs to common property and dealing with neighbour complaints, will come into effect following a review of HMO licensing by Glasgow City Council’s licensing and regulatory committee.

The review identified many concerns linked to the presence of HMOs in neighbourhoods across the city, particularly where there are high concentrations of this type of rental property.

High levels of refuse from HMOs being left in back courts and lanes is a common complaint with a surge in bulk waste being dumped at the end of the academic year also being raised as a recurring problem. Public consultation feedback also focused on difficulties with securing support from HMO landlords for repairs and maintenance to common parts of flatted property. How to deal with noise and other anti-social behaviour was also flagged as a source of on-going disputes.

While it was found there is no legal basis for a cap on the number of HMO licences issued within Glasgow, the review reiterated that the purpose of HMO licensing is to protect public safety. The review conclude that better management of HMOs was a practical way forward.

Councillor Alex Wilson, chair of the licensing and regulatory committee, said that striking a balance between the needs of neighbourhoods, residents, HMO tenants and landlords was essential.

Councillor Wilson said: “It is clear there is a strong depth of feeling about how HMOs operate in the city. There is a range of issues that are regularly brought before members of the committee and we know that the way HMOs are sometimes managed cause real problems to other residents.

“But the public safety purpose of the HMO system should not be put to one side. HMOs provide homes of a reliable standard for people who cannot otherwise afford to live independently and that’s a system we support.

“The advice we have received means there is not a legally defensible way to limit how many HMOs there in Glasgow as there is a continuing need for kind of accommodation. So focusing on what really bothers people about the way property is managed is the way to deal with this.

“Indiscriminate dumping of rubbish, refusing to pull your weight with the cost of repairs, failing to get a grip with noisy or anti-social tenants – these are the issues that upset other residents. By creating conditions of licence that focus on the issues of concern we are setting out very clearly the standards we expect of our HMO landlords. The conditions will help to ensure we can take a more robust approach with licence holders who do not meet expected standards.”

The new conditions for HMOs will cover: general refuse; maintenance, insurance and repairs of common areas; bulk refuse; neighbouring residents and statutory notices. All of these conditions will be incorporated into a new code of conduct, which will apply to all HMO licence holders.

As part of the new conditions, a pilot project will be operated through the cleansing service provided by the council’s Neighbourhoods and Sustainability department. The pilot will involve landlords notifying the council in advance of flats being cleared of items at the beginning or end or the academic year to ensure bulk waste is reported for collection.

The review also found that it would not be appropriate to use planning policy objectives to limit HMO residences to over-ride a licensing system intended to protect public safety.

Source: Scottish Housing News

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Highland landlord given £4,000 fine

A Highland landlord has been fined £4,000 for operating a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence.

Following concerns that several flats within Cruickshank Court in Dingwall were being occupied as unlicensed HMOs, Highland Council’s environmental health team led a joint investigation with Police Scotland in September 2017 into the matter.

The investigation identified several unlicensed HMOs and a report was submitted to the Procurator Fiscal’s Office at the time.

At Inverness Sheriff Court on February 28, Inverness businesswoman Claire Mohammed was fined £4,000.

An HMO is a property in which three or more unrelated adults are residing as their main residence and require too share kitchen, toilet or personal washing facilities. It is an offence for any landlord to permit a property to be occupied as an HMO without a license issued by the council. Safeguards for tenants provided by HMO licensing include checks on electrical, gas and fire safety, space standards, and management standards. Licensing helps ensure that accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality.

Gregor MacCormick, Highland Council senior environmental health officer, said: “This was a significant operation for the Environmental Health team with visits being undertaken to nine individual flats. Serious safety concerns were identified in respect of both the management and maintenance of the flats, and we therefore welcome the level of fine that has been imposed.

“Our main aim in these investigations is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of tenants. We will continue to work in partnership to conduct such interventions in the future and take robust action where we find that landlords have failed in their responsibilities.”

Detective Inspector Peter Mackenzie, Police Scotland, said: “We acknowledge the penalty imposed on Claire Mohammed at Inverness Sheriff court. This operation brought together several partner agencies with Police Scotland and Environmental Health Officers from Highland Council taking the lead and working closely together to gather a sufficiency of evidence in relation to serious safety concerns that were identified and subsequently reported to the Procurator Fiscal. This shows the advantages and benefit of a multi-agency approach, which we will continue to do to target any landlord who risks the safety and lives of their tenants.”

By Dominic Robertson

Source: Scottish Housing News