Additional (HMO) Licensing Scheme consultation FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on the Additional (HMO) Licensing Scheme consultation. 


Additional (HMO) Licensing under section 56 of the Housing Act 2004 allows the Local Authority to extend the Mandatory HMO licensing scheme to include other types of HMO, that are being managed insufficiently enough to give rise to one or more particular problems either for those occupying the property or for members of the public.

It can be applied either to designated areas or across the whole of the Borough and enables local authorities to work with landlords to raise management standards and improve housing conditions.

A ‘House in Multiple Occupation’ is legally defined under sections 254 (and 257) of the Housing Act of 2004. The current definition under s254 actually comprises a series of ‘tests’ which are applied to the premises concerned. If the building (or part of the building) meets all the conditions set out in any of these tests, then it is a HMO.

The term ‘HMO’, covers a wide range of property types and styles. The following examples are all HMO’s:

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants, who form two or more ‘households’ and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants, who form two or more ‘households’ and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats that are not wholly self-contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet, even though these may be provided elsewhere in the building and may be dedicated for the sole use of that particular occupier) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form two or more ‘households’.
  • A building (or part of a building) which is converted and consists entirely of self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and where more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies. (Section 257 HMO)
  • A building where the Local Housing Authority has served a ‘HMO Declaration’ under section 255 of the Housing Act 2004

In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants’ only or main residence’ and it should also be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Please note that properties which are let to students or migrant workers are (under this legislation) considered as their only or main place of residence. The same applies to properties that are used as domestic refuges.

The Housing Act 2004 requires landlords of HMOs of a certain description to apply for licences from the council.  Mandatory licencing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) covers those properties with:

  • occupied by five or more people forming two or more households (i.e. people not related, living together as a couple, etc). 
  • which have an element of shared facilities (e.g. kitchen, bathroom, etc) or where all the units of accommodation are not fully self-contained (i.e. although a kitchen, bathroom or WC are provided for the tenant’s use elsewhere in the building, they are not actually situated within their unit of accommodation.)

You can find more details on HMO licensing standards here.

Sefton Council has undertaken research which has determined that a significant proportion of HMOs that do not fall under the present into the definition to require a Mandatory licensing regime, are giving rise to problems that include poor housing management and anti-social behaviour complaints.  

Sefton has considered whether there are any courses of action, other than continuing with Additional Licensing, that might achieve the same objectives, however, concludes that re-designating Additional Licensing areas is the most appropriate course of action in the circumstances. 

Sefton is satisfied that Additional Licensing of these HMOs will greatly assist in dealing with the problems identified.

Yes.  You must hold a separate Licence for each house that meets the Licensing criteria.

Sefton proposes to include ALL properties within designated areas of the Borough that meet any of the current legal definitions of a HMO (see Question 2 above), except for those that are already of the ‘prescribed description’ for Mandatory HMO Licensing (see Question 3 above).  

There are some properties that are exempt from licensing.  However, they must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Buildings occupied by only two persons, who do not form a single ‘household’
  • Buildings predominantly ‘owner-occupied’ including those where the owner and his or her family share the house or flat with no more than two other unrelated persons.
  • Buildings occupied by students but managed by the educational establishment in question, under an ‘Approved Code of Practice’
  • Buildings managed by the Local Housing Authority, Registered Social Landlords, the Police, Fire or Health Authority.
  • Buildings occupied by religious communities.
  • Buildings regulated under other specific pieces of legislation such as: Children Act 1989, Care Homes Regulations 2001, Children’s Homes Regulations 2001, etc

The Additional (HMO) Licensing proposed re-designated areas include parts of Seaforth, Waterloo, Brighton-le-Sands and Southport, the list of roads and maps of the area can be seen in the below documents

You can find a map and list of roads included to be in the proposed scheme here.

Additional (HMO) Licensing schemes have been introduced by several Local Authorities and have resulted in improved levels of property management across the board.

 

The current Additional licensing scheme has highlighted several examples of poor management practices and unsafe property conditions. Over the 3.5-year period 189 service requests were received from HMO properties. 153 of those within the licensing areas equating to 81%.  Therefore, this provides evidence of poor property management across this sector and specifically within the proposed re-designated areas.

Overall, Additional (HMO) Licensing can provide additional powers to help the Local Authority tackle poorly managed privately rented property.  An estimated 33% of the private rented sector HMO accommodation across Sefton is in Waterloo/Seaforth and central Southport.  Re-designating the Additional (HMO) Licensing areas will continue to build upon improvements to the management standards in this sector, improve living conditions and ultimately lead to a better quality of life for residents.  It will help the areas to be more conducive to good landlords but provide an environment that is less opportunistic and attractive for poor and rogue landlords. 

Since the number of compliance visits undertaken was severely below target due to the Covid pandemic, the Council is satisfied that there remain many properties that are occupied by tenants which also contain health and safety hazards.  Therefore, re-designating Additional (HMO) Licensing areas will provide the Council the ability to inspect more properties and remove those hazards to ensure the occupiers live in a safe and healthy home.

Additional (HMO) Licensing requires landlords or their agents to demonstrate they are ‘fit and proper’ and have no criminal convictions which may affect their management of the property.

They must also have satisfactory management and financial arrangements, as well as having adequate procedures in place for dealing with problem tenants.  Management arrangements will include things such as making sure the property is safe to live in and issuing the tenant with a written tenancy agreement. 

Licence holders will also have to provide annual gas safety records and adhere to a number of conditions as part of their licence. 

You can see the draft licence conditions here.

Examples of evidence required include:

  • Gas safety - Gas safety record (12 months)
  • Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), Fire Alarm and Emergency lighting certificates, where applicable
  • Floor plan with room sizes and uses clearly shown
  • Any proposed licence holder or manager of the property will be required to make a declaration that they are a “fit and proper person“
  • Current occupancy details.

Sefton Council intends to inspect all licensed properties during the period of the licence to ensure compliance with licence conditions.

During the current scheme the ability to undertake inspections was severely impacted by Covid restrictions put upon Council Officers so we are unable to inspect every licensable property before the end of the current scheme. 

Sefton Council will carry out checks to make sure that the person applying for a licence is a “fit and proper person”.  In deciding whether someone is “fit and proper”, Sefton must take into account, amongst other matters:

  1. Any offences involving fraud or other dishonesty, or violence or drugs, or any offence listed in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
  2. Any unlawful discrimination on grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origins or disability in, or in connection with the carrying on of any business.
  3. Any contravention of any provision of the law relating to housing or of landlord and tenant law.
  4. Any person involved in the management of the property has sufficient level of competence to be so involved.
  5. Any person involved in the management of the house is a fit and proper person to be so involved.

Sefton can also decide if a person is not “fit and proper” as a result of association with other persons who would not be considered “fit and proper” where this would affect the management of a licensed property.

 

It is a criminal offence to operate without a licence in a designated area and could result in the landlord/owner being prosecuted.  

On conviction the landlord/owner could face a fine of any amount and any rent collected during the unlicensed period could be reclaimed by either the tenant or the council. Alternatively, the Council may serve a Civil Penalty Notice with a fine not exceeding £30,000.

The local authority can also apply to the First-Tier Property Chamber for a ‘rent repayment order’ to recoup any housing benefit the landlord has received during the unlicensed period (maximum 12 months).  

No offence is committed however if there is an outstanding application for a licence on record or a ‘temporary exemption notice’ is in force.

The licence fee will be based on the cost of delivering the Licensing scheme over the 5 year period.  Exact costs are yet to be determined, although, proposed figures are available within the business case and are subject to this consultation. 

Applicants may also be eligible for a reduction on the fee. 

The licence holder will be responsible for paying the licence fee for each property. 

The Council is not permitted to obtain financial gain from the fees paid through the licensing process.  

The fee charged will cover the costs associated with administering the Licensing Schemes.

The proposed fee for a licence is affordable.  

We believe that irresponsible landlords who do not keep their properties in good condition and do not manage them properly might decide to sell, to avoid licensing.

This will, however, open up their properties to people that will manage them well.

Licensing will improve the image of the sector as a whole and will help encourage responsible landlords to invest in Sefton.

The council intends to enhance its good working relationship with responsible private sector landlords as part of the proposed licensing schemes.  

Specific support measures will include (not limited to):

  • A reduced licensing fee for properties accredited with Sefton’s Property Accreditation Scheme
  • Support will be provided to landlords in relation to the licence standards
  • Support will be provided to landlords in relation to dealing with ASB issues within their properties

Additional (HMO) Licensing requires landlords to adhere to a number of conditions as part of their licence.  

Officers from Sefton Council plan to inspect the property to ensure it is in a satisfactory condition and that any hazards present are appropriately addressed by your landlord. 

This provides you with the reassurance that checks have been done to ensure that the property is of a suitable standard and suitable for occupation.

Additional (HMO) Licensing aims to ensure that HMOs in your area are being properly managed and will enable the Council to take enforcement action against a wider range of properties where necessary.

The additional controls will assist in addressing issues such as with property condition or anti-social behaviour and should result in benefits to all residents, businesses and visitors to the local area.

We will be consulting with landlords, agents, tenants, residents, local businesses, regional and national landlord associations, Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, neighbouring local authorities and other stakeholders.

You can respond to the consultation online, here.

This consultation is being carried out on behalf of Sefton Council by independent market research company M.E.L. Research, an accredited Market Research Society Company Partner that abides by the MRS Code of Conduct.

You can contact M.E.L. by telephone: 0800 073 0348

Email: seftonprs@melresearch.co.uk

 

The consultation will close at 23:59 on Sunday 31 July 2022 and the results will be collated and published on Sefton’s website when ready for presenting to Cabinet.

The responses from the consultation will be reviewed by elected members and a decision will then be made to either accept or reject the scheme.  

If the decision is to go ahead with the scheme, then the earliest it could be expected to start is 1st March 2023.

This consultation is being carried out on behalf of Sefton Council by independent market research company M.E.L. Research, an accredited Market Research Society Company Partner that abides by the MRS Code of Conduct.

You can contact M.E.L. at:

MEL Research
Somerset House
37 Temple Street
Birmingham
B2 5DP                                    

Tel: 0800 073 0348

Email: seftonprs@melresearch.co.uk

Housing Standards Team
Sefton Council                                      
Magdalen House
30 Trinity Road
Bootle
L20 3NJ                      

Email: landlord.licensing@sefton.gov.uk


Last Updated on Friday, May 6, 2022

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