National HMO Lobby


National HMO

What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan


Leeds HMO Lobby
Nottingham Action Group

National Developments
Sustainable Communities
Use Classes Order
HMO Licensing
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community

National HMO Lobby



Evidence on
HMO Licensing
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 area.

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 of Licensing
# Figures are difficult to determine. But in Leeds, we understand that Unipol Student Homes has widespread anecdotal evidence of this trend.

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


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