National HMO Lobby

 

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Aims and Objectives

National HMO Lobby
# DETR's Consultation Paper Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (1999) acknowledged the development of concentrations of HMOs. The paper refers to DSS hostels in coastal resorts. Since then, a major cause of such concentrations has been the expansion of Higher Education, and the accommodation of students in shared houses.
# Concentrations of HMOs, for whatever reason, have a twofold detrimental impact. On the one hand, directly and indirectly, they give rise to social problems, including rising crime, decline of the built environment, and deterioration of the local economy. On the other hand, they undermine the sustainability of the host community, generating exodus, absenteeism and fewer committed residents.
# In response to these developments, a network of community groups in university and coastal towns around the country emerged in 2000. Currently, the National HMO Lobby comprises nearly fifty individual or collective groups in thirty towns, mostly in England, but also in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Aims
The main aim of the National HMO Lobby is to lobby for action on HMOs (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.
# In order to identify HMOs, they must be clearly defined.
# In order to limit concentrations, they must be controlled by planning and housing legislation.
# In order that they may help to remedy their impact, they must be taxed.

Objectives
The main objectives of the National HMO Lobby therefore are threefold.
#1 To lobby for licensing of HMOs. Licensing is essential to identify HMOs (though licensing alone is ineffective without planning controls).
HMOs must be adequately defined in Housing legislation, using a definition based on the Scottish one (introduced in 1991), as advocated by DETR in 1999.
The more vulnerable HMOs, in terms of size, number of occupants and other factors, must be subject to mandatory licensing.
In areas where concentrations of HMOs have developed (or are developing), the local authority must have the power to license all such properties.
The National HMO Lobby has advocated the urgent introduction of licensing of HMOs: this has now been done in all parts of the UK (varying in breadth and depth), in Scotland (2000), in Northern Ireland (2004) and with the Housing Act 2004, in England & Wales [see 'What is a HMO?']

#2 To lobby for planning control of HMOs. Planning permission is essential to control HMOs (though without identification through licensing, it is ineffective).
HMOs must be adequately defined in Planning legislation, clearly using the same definition as that adopted for Housing (based on the Scottish definition of 1991).
HMOs must be recognised in the Use Classes Order as a class as distinct from a single household dwelling as hotels and care homes.
Change of use of any property to HMO must be subject to planning permission.
The National HMO Lobby has advocated revision of the various Use Class Orders in the UK: this has been done in Northern Ireland (by the Planning [Use Classes] Order [NI] 2004), but not in Wales or Scotland [again, see 'What is a HMO?']. However, on 27 January 2010, John Healey MP, Minister for Planning, announced that the Use Class Order in England would be amended, to define HMOs and subject them to planning permission; these changes came into effect on 6 April 2010, with Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 653 The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010. Regrettably, on 1 October, the new government made change of use to HMO permitted development, with Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 2134 The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (no 2) (England) Order 2010.

#3 To lobby for local taxation of HMOs. HMOs make disproportionate demands on local services, but currently they are exempt both from Business Rate, and in most cases, from Council Tax.
HMOs must be adequately defined in Finance legislation, clearly using the same definition as that adopted for Housing and Planning.
HMOs must be recognised as non-domestic concerns (like hotels) for the purpose of local government finance.
HMOs must as a consequence be subject to Business Rate, rather than to Council Tax.
The National HMO Lobby advocates amendment of Section 66 of the Local Government Finance Act (1988) such that HMOs no longer qualify as domestic property and thereby become subject to Business Rate.

National HMO Lobby
October 2003, revised November 2004, March 2005, January and November 2010

 


National HMO Lobby
email: hmolobby@hotmail.com website: www.hmolobby.org.uk