What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan
Leeds HMO Lobby
Use Classes Order
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community
National HMO Lobby
A Response to the Consultation
General Consents for Licensing Schemes
1 The National HMO Lobby is a national network
of local community associations concerned about the impact on their
communities of concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
The Lobby currently comprises some forty associations in over thirty
towns throughout the UK (for more information, see our website).
The Lobby has contributed to earlier consultations on the private
rented sector (PRS) in general and on HMOs in particular, including
Implementation of HMO
The Supply of Rented
Housing (2006), and Private
Rented Sector Review (2008). Most recently, our members
comprised the majority of the respondents to the consultation on
Houses in multiple occupation
and possible planning responses
(2009). The Lobby is pleased to respond to the consultation
Consents for Licensing Schemes.
Should the existing approval process be kept in place for
either additional HMO licensing and/or selective licensing?
2 No, the Lobby does not consider that the existing
approval process should be retained, for either additional or selective
licensing. We note the small number of successful applications for
both additional HMO licensing (four local authorities) and for selective
licensing (twelve local authorities). We know from our own advocacy
of, and participation in, such applications that the workload involved,
combined with the uncertainty of the outcome, is a significant deterrent
to local authorities. This has meant that valuable legislation has
not been implemented nearly as widely as is warranted.
Should we introduce a general consent for all local authorities
3 Yes, the Lobby considers that the government
should introduce a general consent for all local authorities (LAs)
in England. The existing procedure has limited the impact of valuable
legislation. Meanwhile, other countries of the UK enjoy much greater
liberality in licensing. In Scotland, for instance, all HMOs require
a licence. And in Wales, the Assembly has already introduced a general
consent for all local authorities.
Should we introduce a general consent for specific local
authorities based on their experience of using the licensing powers?
4 No, the Lobby considers that any general consent
should not be restricted to local authorities who already have discretionary
licensing designations in place. This will simply perpetuate the
disadvantages of the present regime, noted above (para 2). To be
sure, further implementation will be eased for those (few) LAs who
have already successfully surmounted the hurdle of applying to the
government for approval. But all other LAs will remain as they are.
This approach would make no significant contribution to wider implementation
of valuable legislation.
Should a general consent for specific local authorities
based on specific criteria such a performance under comprehensive
area assessment (CAA) be introduced?
5 No, the Lobby considers that any general consent
should not be restricted to LAs who meet criteria other than experience
of licensing powers. This would clearly lead to anomalous situations.
On the one hand, LAs who meet other criteria, but lack licensing
experience, would enjoy a fast track to discretionary licensing.
On the other hand, LAs with licensing experience, but without other
qualifications, would remain in the slow lane. This approach would
be widely perceived as unfair.
What additional criteria, if any, should be introduced
for establishing selective licensing schemes?
6 The Lobby considers that further criteria should
be introduced for selective licensing schemes, in addition to low
demand and antisocial behaviour.
6.1 The Summary
of responses (2010) to the consultation on Houses in
multiple occupation and possible planning responses (2009)
demonstrated clearly the widespread problems posed to local communities
and their LAs by concentrations of HMOs (94% of respondents reported
such problems). The root of these problems is twofold: the polarisation
of neighbourhoods towards one type of tenure; and the consequent
domination of the neighbourhood by a transient population. HMOs
are of course typified by short-term tenancies. But turnover is
high in the PRS in general (the average length of stay is only eighteenth
months). Provision of short-term accommodation is essential, of
course - but when it dominates a neighbourhood, it becomes destructive
of local community cohesion. (Antisocial behaviour ensues, which
may in turn lead to low demand.)
6.2 Similar conclusions are drawn in the new Evaluation
of the Impact of HMO Licensing and Selective Licensing
(2010). Simple concentrations of the PRS have a destabilising impact
on communities, undermining cohesion. The introduction of selective
licensing has a beneficial effect. "[Selective] licensing …
was seen as key to achieving improved community cohesion and reducing
concentrations of deprivation (section 9.4.5, p139)." "Section
10.9 Neighbourhood and community cohesion: Although [selective]
licensing was not set up specifically to improve these aspects,
because it is being implemented as part of a much wider package,
it is contributing to neighbourhood improvements ... The baseline
report highlighted that transience was a problem in many areas being
considered for selective licensing ... Owner occupiers felt trapped
as they could not move out to higher priced areas and, in many cases,
did not want to be 'forced out' ... Licensing is seen by the local
authorities with designations as part of a package of measures to
make the area a better place to live so that people will choose
to move there and to stay. Residents certainly also hope that this
will happen (section 10.9, p183)."
6.3 A recent report by the University of Sheffield,
UK: the way we live now (2008) identified communities with
the lowest levels of cohesion: all comprised transient populations,
especially student populations in HMOs.
6.4 A further criterion for selective licensing
should therefore be a high concentration of the PRS in a neighbourhood.
7 The National HMO Lobby welcomes the consultation
on general consents for discretionary licensing. The recent consultation
on Houses in multiple occupation and possible planning responses
(2009) revealed the intractable problems generated by unrestrained
development of the PRS. The consultation convincingly showed the
need for planning legislation. At the same time, "All of the
councils who currently experience problems relating to high concentrations
of HMOs recognise the advantages of best practice measures"
(Summary of responses, para 3.55). Such 'good practice'
includes HMO licensing. In order to be able to manage the PRS well,
all LAs would benefit from the ability more easily to introduce
discretionary licensing schemes.
National HMO Lobby