Leeds HMO Lobby
What is a HMO?
Studentification in Leeds
Use Classes Order
Students & Community
National HMO Lobby
Leeds HMO Lobby
to the Consultation on the Implementation of
§01 Leeds HMO Lobby is an association of
twenty-eight community groups in & around Headingley in inner
north-west Leeds, whose purpose is to lobby for action on houses
in multiple occupation – that is, to lobby government nationally
to introduce legislation which will enable government locally to
preserve communities from destabilisation by concentrations of shared
housing. Details of the composition and constitution of the Lobby
are available on its website and its membership
is listed in Annex A.
§02 Response: As a founder-member of the
National HMO Lobby, Leeds HMO Lobby supports the response
to the Consultation on HMO Licensing made by the national Lobby.
The purpose of this present Response is to endorse in general the
Recommendations made in the national submission, which answers almost
all the fifty-five Questions in the Consultation Paper. In addition,
the Leeds Lobby wishes to reinforce in particular the National HMO
Lobby’s five Propositions and its Recommendations on Additional
Licensing (Housing Act, Section 56), on Thresholds for Mandatory
Licensing (Section 55), on Management Regulations (Section 234),
on the Register of Licences (Section 232) and on the Evaluation
of HMO Licensing.
§03 Contradiction: Leeds HMO Lobby considers
that in developing policy for the private rented sector it is essential
to recognise the inherent contradiction between the government’s
overall housing and planning aims, and the implications of the PRS
in general, and HMOs in particular, for housing provision in Britain.
ODPM is very clear that its overarching aim is Creating Sustainable
Communities. On the other hand, the unavoidable tendency of
the PRS is towards unsustainability at best, and antisocial behaviour
at worst. This is because of the way the PRS is used in Britain
– statistics from the ODPM’s Survey of English Housing
for 2003 [Summaries 21 & 23] show that, even though the
PRS accounts for only 10% of households in England, nevertheless
• it houses nearly half of all new households, • these
households are short-lived (on average, only eighteen months or
so), and • over half of all household movement takes place
in the PRS. Such provision is clearly necessary – but its
transience is equally clearly detrimental to sustainability.
§04 Consultation: If communities are sustainable,
it is their residents who make them so. Government and its agencies
can only help (or hinder). And their perspective can only be partial.
It is extraordinary therefore that Annex B, List of Consultees,
of the Consultation Paper, lists 72 organisations – not one
of which is representative of communities themselves. And this is
in spite of the fact that resident/neighbourhood/community associations
readily arise when a neighbourhood is felt to be under threat. Inner
North-West Leeds is such an area, currently sustaining twenty-eight
associations (Annex A).
Proposition 1 Leeds HMO Lobby proposes that any future
consultation on houses in multiple occupation include representation
of communities, through the National HMO Lobby.
§05 Private Rented Sector: Part 1 of the
Consultation paper considers Key Facts and Challenges of the private
rented sector. But it overlooks some of the key characteristics
of this sector. The first of these arises from the fact that it
is private and constitutes a market. Market forces always tend towards
concentrations of supply and demand, and this is as true of housing
markets as of any others. The DETR Consultation Paper on HMO Licensing
of 1999 noted concentrations of claimant housing in coastal towns.
In Leeds, concentrations have arisen as a result of the student
housing market. This sub-sector now accounts for half of
the PRS in Leeds, two-thirds of the city’s HMOs are
student shared houses, nearly all of this is in & around
Headingley Ward, where in 2001, 59% of the population lived
in the PRS. The corollary of this is that the inherent transience
of the PRS also becomes concentrated: in Headingley in 2001, half
of the electors were new to the Ward. At best, this leads to disengagement:
• two-thirds of students in Leeds don’t know their neighbours
[Unipol Survey 2002], • Headingley Ward regularly has the
lowest turnout in the city in local elections. At worst, this leads
to serious social problems: • Headingley Ward has attracted
the worst burglary rate in the country.
Proposition 2 Leeds HMO Lobby proposes that PRS policy
should recognise that the sector is not uniformly distributed throughout
communities, but frequently develops in small or large concentrations.
Proposition 3 Leeds HMO Lobby proposes that the challenge posed
to sustainability by the private rented sector be explicitly recognised
in policy development for this sector.
§06 Houses in Multiple Occupation: Part 2
of the Consultation paper considers the Problems posed by HMOs.
These, of course, being the most intense form of renting, exacerbate
the general problems of the PRS, noted in §05.
But in addition, the Consultation Paper overlooks the complexities
of the PRS in general, and HMOs in particular. First of all, HMOs
are not let to a uniform market. There are diverse demands, from
benefit claimants, from students, and from young professionals,
and these generate very different HMO markets. Because the clientele
is vulnerable, so too is the claimant sub-sector of HMOs. The other
markets however are very robust, to the extent that the PRS has
effectively driven social renting out of the Headingley area in
Leeds. Furthermore, not only has social housing been converted to
HMOs, but so too have owner-occupied properties. In fact, so intense
is the demand for HMOs (following the concentrated market effect
already noted) that the increase of house prices in & around
Headingley has raced ahead of the rest of Leeds, and houses are
no longer affordable to families. In any cost-benefit analysis,
HMOs would emerge as a liability in housing provision in Britain.
Proposition 4 Leeds HMO Lobby proposes that the wide
range of markets for HMOs be properly recognised in policy development.
Proposition 5 Leeds HMO Lobby proposes that the problematic
contribution of HMOs to housing provision be properly recognised
in policy development.
§07 Additional Licensing: Sections 56 and
57 of the Housing Act make clear that the intent of additional HMO
Licensing is to address problems of sustainability (especially antisocial
behaviour) arising from HMOs, that these may be problems affecting
both occupants and neighbours, and that these are problems arising
from ineffective management. Such problems may be particular or
general. Particular problems are those arising from an individual
HMO, while general problems are those arising, not from one particular
HMO, but from a general accumulation of HMOs in a neighbourhood.
In this latter situation, such as the colony of students in &
around Headingley in Leeds, a population which is young and inexperienced,
seasonal and transient, allows problems of crime, squalor, a resort
economy and an unsustainable community to arise. Fifteen such problems
are listed in Annex B. Leeds City Council is adopting a range of
strategies, including planning policies, to address these issues.
The Leeds UDP Review is currently under way, and in order to provide
supporting evidence for new policies to tackle the student colony,
the Council and the community conducted an Amenity Audit. This Audit
logged all incidents detrimental to the amenity of the neighbourhood.
These problems arise, not from individual mismanagement, but from
an overall lack of effective management in the area. What
is needed therefore is not the licensing of occasional individual
HMOs, but licensing of them all. The phenomenon in Headingley is
not peculiar to the area but is common to all neighbourhoods suffering
concentrations of HMOs. Indeed, DfES is currently conducting research
into the impact of student HMOs on their host communities. The obvious
inference is to identify a threshold for the proportion of HMOs
in any street, beyond which general approval is given for
the additional licensing of HMOs.
Q1 How should authorities determine whether particular types
of HMO are being managed effectively?
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that one way of determining whether
HMOs in an area are managed adequately to sustain the community
is to conduct an Amenity Audit.
Q2 What additional or alternative general approvals might
be given in relation to additional licensing?
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that general approval for additional
licensing should be given for any street where HMOs exceed a specific
threshold, such as 20% of properties or 25% of residents.
Q3 Are there specific issues on which guidance is likely to be necessary
for the implementation of HMO licensing?
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that any pertinent conclusions drawn
by the DfES Student Housing Project be used to inform the guidance
given to local authorities.
§08 Threshold for Mandatory Licensing: The
government has set the threshold for mandatory licensing at HMOs
with three or more storeys and five or more residents, in more than
one household. Leeds HMO Lobby knows from years of experience that
irresponsible landlords will do their best to subvert these criteria,
and therefore ‘storey’ and ‘resident’ must
be defined broadly and stringently.
Q4 How should three storeys be defined?
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that in order to identify a storey,
a test of ‘occupiability’ be employed: if a floor is
occupiable (for purposes of work, rest or play), then it counts
as a storey; if it is not effectively occupiable, then it is discounted.
Q5 Is it desirable to include parts of the building not used for
The Lobby considers that all parts of a building should be included
in setting the definition for mandatory licensing.
Q6 How do you think children should be treated?
The Lobby considers that as a matter of principle (the rights
of the child) children should be counted fully as ‘persons’
for the purposes of the threshold for mandatory licensing.
§09 Management Regulations: While some landlords
are irresponsible, many others (not being full-time professionals)
are inexperienced. Management regulations therefore are necessary.
And if licensing of HMOs is to achieve its objective of addressing
“problems for those occupying HMOs or for members of the public”
(Housing Act, Section 56(2)), then these management regulations
should include dealing with antisocial behaviour. Additional licensing
(§07 above) can tackle general problems. But particular problems,
in individual HMOs, also often arise, and this is because of the
particular characteristics of the occupation of HMOs. For instance
# occupants are typically single young adults (like students),
# occupancy of the property is highly intensive (student
HMOs are often packed by landlords - five in a three-bed semi, for
instance), # occupation is un-governed (for many students,
the whole point is to escape parental restraint), and # the occupiers
are short-term (students reside seasonally, and move annually).
Any one of these factors encourages a lifestyle which can affect
the degree to which a household is clean, quiet and safe. The combination
of them all in a HMO increases this likelihood.
Q20 Do you believe that any other regulations should be
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that Management Regulations should
include measures to address antisocial behaviour.
§10 Register of Licences: One of the most
valuable aspects of HMO licensing is the introduction of a Register
of Licences. One of the greatest difficulties for communities and
councils is identifying the person responsible for a problematic
HMO. The Register will supply this lack. But it is important that
it supplies the necessary information. The first of these is of
course the landlord’s identity. And given that occupancy is
an especially important issue (see §09 above),
a second requirement is the maximum capacity of the HMO –
as both landlords and tenants (for different reasons) have an interest
in maximising occupation.
Q53 Does including the landlord’s name & address
in the register place the landlord at too great a risk?
Leeds HMO Lobby fails to see why landlords should receive any special
consideration. All other businesses are required to provide contact
details. And all owners who occupy their properties by that fact
are identifiable. There is no good reason to make landlords a special
Q54 Are the matters listed the most appropriate matters
to record in the register?
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that the Register
should include the maximum number of households or persons specified
in the licence.
§11 Evaluation: HMO licensing is intended
to serve the interests of tenants of HMOs, of neighbours of HMOs,
and of neighbourhoods which host HMOs. Leeds HMO Lobby was established
to represent the interests of the last of these in Leeds. In response
to the market (as noted in §05), HMOs nearly
always develop in smaller or larger concentrations. The Lobby’s
concern (like the government’s, we hope) is the impact of
such concentrations on the sustainability of our communities. Sustainability
was analysed in the Egan Review (ODPM, 2004), whose characterisation
of sustainability is broadly reproduced in the new publication,
People, Places & Prosperity. The Egan Review also provides
a list of fifty indicators related to what the Review identifies
as the seven key components of sustainable communities. What the
Review omits is the pre-requisite of a stable, balanced
community – which is precisely what is threatened by HMOs
(the contradiction presented by the PRS to the government’s
overall housing and planning aims, noted in §03).
Q55 How best should Government assess the impact of HMO
Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that the impact of HMO licensing
on communities be assessed (a) by reference to selected indicators
from the Egan Review, and (b) by reference to population turnover
in Output Areas where HMOs are located.
§12 Otherwise, Leeds HMO Lobby endorses the
Responses by the National HMO Lobby to all the other Questions asked
by the Consultation on the Implementation of HMO Licensing.
Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, Leeds HMO Lobby
Leeds HMO Lobby