Councils are keen to alert landlords to a change in legislation that means the licensing of properties let as bedsits or shared houses, known as ‘Houses of Multiple Occupation’ (HMO), is set to change across the country.
Currently, a HMO requires a licence if it has three floors or more, is occupied by five or more people or, if two or more households are sharing amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.
Under new regulations, the three storey requirement is removed. This means all HMOs that are occupied by five or more people in two or more separate households will require a licence.
New regulations also bring in mandatory conditions such as minimum sleeping room sizes, maximum number of occupants and provision of refuse facilities.
Why do HMOs need a licence?
Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Leader of North Dorset District Council and Cabinet Member for Housing, said:
“Licensing of HMOs ensures that our housing team knows about properties which may present significant health risk to residents. It also gives us the evidence that shows appropriate management arrangements have been made for the property.”
Licenses will be granted if the proposed licence holder is a ‘fit and proper’ person and is the most appropriate person to be given a licence as well as if the house is suitable for occupation by a certain number of people.
Cllr Tim Yarker, West Dorset District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, said:
“The changes to the regulations will drive up conditions for residents. Through the licensing process, officers will be able to advise property owners of the regulations and enforce them.”
Cllr Gill Taylor, Weymouth & Portland Borough Council’s Briefholder for Housing, said:
“Weymouth and Portland have a high number of HMOs compared to the surrounding areas. Through these new regulations, even more are likely to be identified. The bigger catchment will bring properties to our attention that might not be suitable and we can then work with the property owner to find a solution.
How much will a licence cost?
The cost of a HMO licence is set by the district or borough council. West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council have both agreed a fee of £650 for a new application and £550 for a renewal. Councillors at North Dorset District Council will receive a report recommending the adoption of the same fee at their Cabinet Meeting in April.
A 10 per cent discount is proposed for landlords committing to the standards required by the Landlords’ Local Authority Partnership or one of the three national landlord associations. Fees for members would therefore reduce to £585 for a new licence and £495 for a renewal.
The Landlords’ Local Authority Partnership is free to join. Members will benefit from seminars as well as quarterly newsletters with the latest industry news. More information about the partnership is available at dorsetforyou.gov.uk/landlords-partnership.
What happens if a HMO isn’t licensed?
Councils have the ability to either impose a civil penalty of up to £30k for noncompliance with licensing requirements, or to prosecute in the courts.
However, this is a last resort. The council’s Housing Team is committed to working with property owners to ensure licensing requirements are followed. Landlords who are uncertain if their property requires licensing should contact the Housing Improvement Team.
Landlords and tenants can ask for advice by contacting our Housing Improvement Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by phoning 01305 251010.
How do I apply for a licence?
An on-line application process is currently being put together and will be made available on dorsetforyou.com. Prior to that facility being available, landlords are able to obtain an application form by contacting email@example.com or by phoning 01305 251010.