Leeds HMO Lobby


Leeds HMO Lobby

What is a HMO?

The Lobby

Local Action
Policy Papers
Studentification in Leeds

National Action
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HMO Licensing
Students & Community

National HMO Lobby

Leeds HMO Lobby



to the Consultation on the Implementation of
HMO Licensing

§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 residential purposes?

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 included?
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 case.
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 licensing?
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
February 2005


Leeds HMO Lobby
email: hmolobby@hotmail.com website: www.hmolobby.org.uk/leeds