Issue - meetings

Issue - meetings

Houses in multiple occupations (HMOs)

Meeting: 09/11/2016 - Housing Panel (Panel of the Scrutiny Committee) (Item 76)

76 Houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) pdf icon PDF 131 KB


Background Information


The Panel asked for a report on HMO licensing.  In particular, the Panel have asked to consider how the proportion of HMOs in any given neighbourhood is calculated and the oversight of HMO planning decisions.


Why is it on the agenda?


The Panel is asked to note and comment on the report.  The Panel may also wish to make one or more recommendations to the City Executive Board.


Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning & Regulatory

·         Ian Wright, Environmental Health Service Manager

·         Adrian Chowns, HMO Enforcement Team Leader



Additional documents:


The Environmental Health Service Manager introduced the report.  He said the HMO licensing scheme was self-funding and the fees structure rewarded good landlord practices.  All student accommodation owned and fully managed by the Universities was exempt from HMO licensing.  The Panel heard that HMO licensing and planning functions were legally separate and Government had indicated that it had no intention to link them.  The two teams worked closely together but the Council could not refuse an HMO licence on the basis that planning permission had not been granted.  The Council was the top district council in the country for enforcement and had prosecuted 25 landlords that year for unlicensed HMOs in very poor condition.  All premises were inspected before licenses were granted and the Council could impose conditions on the licenses and inspect for compliance.  Compliance rates were about 50%, which compared with 68% compliance against licensing conditions amongst food businesses.  Additional powers were being granted to local authorities to clamp down on rogue landlords, with fixed penalty notices of up to £30k.  The Government was also consulting on extending mandatory licensing but this was not expected to go as far as measures already adopted by the City Council.  The Council was able to influence legislation through its involvement in a government consultation group.


In response to a question the Board Member for Planning and Regulatory said that the Council was able to estimate the number of HMOs in the City with increasing certainty.  The aim was to licence as many HMOs as possible and to shift the emphasis to raising standards.  The biggest gain the Team could make would be from software improvements that eliminate the need for manual data inputting, which would free up officer time for other tasks.


The Panel questioned the size of the HMO application backlog and heard that there was a backlog of 500 incomplete applications where the Team needed to chase landlords for additional information.


The Panel asked whether HMO licensing was an opportunity to raise standards beyond the bare minimum.  The HMO Enforcement Team Leader said that the legal standard was quite low but the Council was stretching the limits using a carrot and stick approach.


In response to a question, the Panel heard that 54 landlords had paid the maximum £999 fee for a 1 year license and in all of these cases the landlords had been actively avoiding licensing.


In response to a question, the Panel noted that the number of properties in a council area that were exempt from Council Tax was factored into the Governments calculations for distributing Revenue Support Grants (RSG).  Given that RSG is being reduced each year and phased-out altogether, the Council could lobby for Council Tax exemptions to be factored into Business Rates formulas.


The Panel commented that the work of the team was very impressive and received assurances that the Council was actively sharing good practice with other local authorities.