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Council to launch public consultation on HMO licensing scheme in Worcester

COUNCILLORS will “consider options” on proposals to amend an HMO licensing scheme for Worcester City.

At a communities committee meeting on October 30, city councillors in Worcester discussed a proposal to approve a 12-week public consultation to extend the HMO scheme in the city.

There are currently HMOs in every ward in Worcester with the exception of St Peter’s, and the licensing scheme would aim to crack down on rogue landlords and improve standards.

Councillors discussed applying the scheme to the parts of Worcester where it was more necessary and where there were more HMOs, but Cllr Richard Udall said the scheme needed to be enforced across the whole city, saying: “I am a bit shocked and surprised at what is being said here. More regulation means more protection. Lowering standards is an invitation to rogue landlords to come into areas where there is no protection.”

The Worcester City Additional Licensing Scheme runs for five years, at the end of which the Council is required to review the scheme with a view to re-designation or discontinuation.

Property standards in HMOs can often be lower than other rented properties due to poor conversions of older properties, more than one household living independently of each other, regular turn over of occupiers and in some cases poor management by the landlord.

The aim of licensing is to ensure these properties meet the legal standards and are properly managed to provide greater protection to the health, safety and welfare of the people living there.

According to the city council’s report: “The implications of moving to an Additional Licensing scheme which is targeted at specific wards would be that City-wide improvements to private housing would not be sustained but that instead a targeted approach could be taken to problem areas.”

The committee agreed to send out the consultation and amended the reports recommendations so that they will make the final decision on whether to declare the scheme, rather than the corporate director for homes and communities along with the chair and vice char of the committee.

In March 2015, Worcester City Council’s cabinet approved an Additional HMO Licensing scheme for the whole City, which came into effect later that year. Accreditation of HMOs had previously been in place but because it was a voluntary scheme, it was not taken up by the majority of landlords.

By Tom Banner

Source: Hereford Times

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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