What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan
Leeds HMO Lobby
Use Classes Order
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community
National HMO Lobby
presented to BRE
1. The National HMO Lobby was established in 2000
as a result of concern by local communities about the detrimental
impact on these communities of concentrations of houses in multiple
occupation (HMOs). The Lobby welcomed the introduction in 2006 of
Licensing of HMOs, as provided by the Housing Act 2004. The Lobby
is keen to assist research into the impact of such Licensing, as
commissioned by Communities & Local Government (CLG) from BRE
(Building Research Establishment). The publication of CLG's Evaluating
the impact of HMO and Selective Licencing: the baseline before licencing
in April 2006 (August 2007), arising from this research, indicated
the need for action on HMOs. Since then, other research has shown
the range of contexts in which HMOs have had detrimental impacts.
In particular, ECOTEC's report Evidence
Gathering - Housing in Multiple Occupation and possible planning
responses (published by CLG in September 2008) shows its
impact in university towns and market towns. And the CLG Commons
Committee's Coastal Towns (2007) showed its significance
in seaside towns.
# In Leeds, a recent report from Sheffield University, Changing
UK (December 2008) indicates that the Headingley area has
the least cohesive community in England: half of its population
is in its twenties, and 43% turns over every year. This is the result
of the area hosting most of the city's student HMOs.
2. The National HMO Lobby welcomes Mandatory HMO
Licensing. As intended by the 2004 Act, such Licensing not only
provides protection to some of the most vulnerable tenants, but
it also serves to protect the neighbourhood, by beginning to provide
a data-base upon which the scale of HMO impact can be assessed.
# Leeds leads the country in the Licensing of HMOs: to date,
some 2,500 Licences have been issued, almost all in the Headingley
3. The National HMO Lobby nevertheless has concerns
about the current Licensing regime. First of all, the Lobby considers
that the threshold for Mandatory Licensing has been set too high,
at properties with three or more storeys and five or more occupants.
In some areas, this captures a significant proportion of HMOs. However,
in other locations, typical property sizes mean that the majority
of HMOs escape Licensing
# In Leeds, probably half of the HMOs in Headingley are liable
for Licensing. Even so, within a two-square-mile colony of HMOs,
50% of these escape Licensing.
4. The National HMO Lobby is also concerned that,
with the threshold at its present level, it is all too easy for
landlords to downsize to escape Licensing. A five-bed three-storey
HMO need only become a four-bed HMO to do so. With concomitant rent
adjustments, the landlord loses little income and avoids the costs
# Figures are difficult to determine. But in Leeds, we understand
that Unipol Student Homes has widespread anecdotal evidence of this
5. The National HMO Lobby advocates the introduction
of Additional HMO Licensing locally, as provided by the 2004 Act.
This would extend the protection of Licensing to the occupants of
all HMOs, it would enable a comprehensive register of the scale
of HMO concentrations, and it would avoid the anomaly of Licensed
and un-Licensed HMOs standing cheek by jowl. However, few local
authorities (LAs) have pursued this avenue. Permission is required
from CLG: but on the one hand, this requires an extensive business
case to be made by the LA; and on the other hand, it leaves the
decision to central government, which is perhaps not best placed
to make a decision. Fears of un-necessary Licensing are surely unfounded:
no LA is likely to undertake Additional Licensing on a whim. The
Welsh Assembly has delegated the introduction of Additional HMO
Licensing to LAs: the Lobby urges CLG to do likewise in England.
# Leeds City Council has considered introducing Additional HMO
Licensing, but despite support from local councillors and community
in Headingley, it has deferred a decision.
6. Finally, the National HMO Lobby proposes that
one of the recommendations of the recent Rugg Review, The
Private Rented Sector: its contribution and potential (October
2008), be considered. The Lobby profoundly disagrees with some of
Rugg's conclusions (especially in relation to student HMOs). But
the Lobby does support consideration of Rugg's recommendation of
comprehensive Licensing of landlords: "It should not be possible
for landlords to let without a licence" (p113). Such Licensing
would avoid all the problems noted above.
Dr Richard Tyler, National HMO Lobby, January 2009
National HMO Lobby