Kensington and Chelsea council start consultation on second HMO licence

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has published a consultation with draft proposals to introduce a second HMO licence for landlords who have HMO properties. The council’s aim is to improve housing standards, act against those who do not provide safe accommodation for their tenants and ensure that the right property licensing is in place.

The council has explained that these proposals have been designed to simplify HMO licence applications and reduce unnecessary paperwork. More about the consultation can be found on the council website.

Under current compulsory licensing rules, Kensington and Chelsea Counci can only licence about 185 properties. 8,244 HMOs exist in this borough and 44% of its housing stock is privately rented. They have also discovered via their own research that 2,400 privately rented properties have serious dangers to tenants’ health and safety, are generally poorly managed and linked with anti-social behaviour.

The consultation seeks views on introducing an extra licence that would add another layer of protection for tenants, identifying licensed and responsible landlords, who will have the correct HMO licensing required.

There are 8,244 HMOs in Kensington and Chelsea, and 44 per cent of the borough’s housing stock is privately rented. According to the council’s research, there are about 2,400 privately rented properties that have the most serious hazards. Many are “poorly managed” and are associated with antisocial behaviour.

The Mandatory HMO licence cost in Kensington & Chelsea is £1248.13 + £12.60 per habitable room.

Director of streets and technical services Mahmood Siddiqi stated: “Everyone deserves a safe place to live and most landlords in our borough are fair and responsible. This proposed licensing scheme would boost housing standards and give us more information so we can enforce against the few landlords who persistently provide poorly managed housing to their tenants.

“It could be good news for tenants and good news for compliant landlords, who would be able to operate in a fairer market.”

The consultation began on March 29th and runs for twelve weeks until 20th June 2021. It is open to everyone.

How can I check my property compliance?

The HMO Services Compliance checker will help you stay one step ahead of any changes like this and help with your property compliance, so you know how any HMO licence changes by your local council could affect you. Just enter your postcode 👍 to find out more.

What is a HMO?

To determine what is an HMO we need to start with what ‘HMO’ stands for ie. House in Multiple Occupancy or House of Multiple Occupation. The standard definition of a section 254 HMO is: 3 or more tenants, more than 1 household and shared facilities.

For Section 257 HMOs, the standard definition of a section 257 HMO refers to buildings that: have been converted into self-contained flats; the conversion did not comply with the relevant Building Regulations in force at that time and still does not comply; and less than two-thirds of the flats are owner-occupied.

What is Property Licensing?

Property licensing is the Local Authority’s process of improving living standards in rental accommodation and proving that landlords are ‘fit and proper’ persons to operate these properties. The type of licence a property requires varies depending on a number of different factors, including the number of tenants and the council your property is located in.

Why is Property Licensing important?

It is important that you are aware of both the national and local authority regulations. The licensing rules are not consistent across every London borough, with each individual borough creating its own set of licensing rules. A professional licensing company should be instructed to guide you through the process. In short, the type of licence required will depend on the property itself, how it is tenanted and the borough that it is located in.

For more information about property licensing, download our guide.

Work in the property business?

Do you work as a letting agent, mortgage consultants, investors or property/building manager? Then take a look at our sister company Yuno, who is ready to help you with any changes you must make.

For more information please contact HMO Services on 020 3848 2200 or email admin@hmoserviceslondon.com.

On the Street: The Rogue Landlord

On the Street: Landlord Prosecuted for failing to display contact details.

There have been numerous reports over the years of ‘rogue’ landlords. These are landlords have caused serious damage to the representation of those working hard in the private rental sector. Landlords, who, have typically been prosecuted for failure to comply to HMO regulations.

The first story like this that caught our attention was back in 2015. The reason this case resonated is that we could understand the landlord had made a mistake in not being diligent with the HMO requirements.

I understand the council’s point of view. HMO regulations and licensing exists because there is a genuine need for them. Overcrowding and faulty fire alarms or carbon monoxide detectors can cause cause serious accidents.

In December 2015, Oxford City Council prosecuted a landlord for failing to have his contact details displayed in the main entrance to the house. He had also failed to properly maintain fire escape routes. The landlord was fined £15,000 for his errors a figure payable directly to the council as a fine and to cover court fees. In addition, Mr Coyle, was ordered to refund a further £2987 to the tenants – the entire rent paid during their stay in the house. This can cause some considerable financial loss for landlords who only have the one property.

Part of the landlord’s defense was that issues had primarily arisen out of the confusing variations in HMO regulations across towns and councils, and this is where we sympathise with him. Mr Coyle told the court that in Cheltenham, where Coyle lives, the law requires landlords to have a license in homes where more than five non-related people live, but in Oxford it is four. Nevertheless, Mr Coyle’s defence didn’t stand and he was susequently ordered to pay the court fees, recompense the tenants and pay the council. I would suggest readers to have a look at their own council’s HMO regulations regarding displaying emergency contact information.

Morale of the story?

Ignorance does not mitigate responsibility! However, HMO regulations can be tricky to navigate and confusing national variations certainly don’t help!

 

Changes to HMO Legislation are coming, make sure you are informed!

Existing HMO rules to change this year

HMO licensing currently encompasses 60,000 homes in England. The proposed changes to legislation will mean that a further 170,000 shared homes will be required to obtain a license. This license can only be obtained once the property owner has fulfilled all the requirements of their Local Authority.

The following blog will deal with the most impacting changes expected to come in this year. The Department for Communities and Local Government has now entered a consultation period to properly define the extent of the changes to the mandatory HMO licensing, however there are a few points which have been marked out as unavoidable.

1) The licensing will expand to include all HMOs with 5 or more sharers making up two households. 

An earlier Government consultation, in October of 2015, sent out an advisory questionnaire to organisations and individuals across the housing sector. Of the 449 respondents, 78% agreed that HMO licensing should extend to include larger houses regardless of the numbers of storeys. 48% went on to agree that houses with 5 sharers from 2 or more households should be HMO licenseable.

2) Flats above shops and businesses will also be HMO licenseable.

79% of those asked in the 2015 survey, believed that flats above businesses should be HMO licensed. Changes to this particular area are being considered because risk of fire is increased in these types of residences.

3) Landlords and Letting Agents will be expected to carry out criminal record and referencing checks more diligently – HMO or not.

This coincides with current government movements surrounding stricter enforcement of immigration rules. Since December 2016, new criminal offences have been created to penalize landlords who fail to undertake Right to Rent checks against their tenants.

4) Landlords and Letting Agents who do not obtain HMO license

The exact impact of being placed on the database has not been fully determined and I imagine we will know soon after the ongoing consultation period. It has been rumored that the database could mean landlords might incur a suspension of up to a year, though nothing has been confirmed.

5) Penalties of up to £30,000 are expected to be incurred for those who do not license their rental homes

The increase in the maximum penalty to £30,000 has come because it was believed the original maximum penalty of £20,000 did not work to deter landlords for not complying with HMO standards. In fact, it was understood that landlords simply incorporated the fines as typical business costs.

Act Now!

These changes will be implemented throughout the year with a grace period of six months before a penalty is incurred

In the meantime, check out the services offered by HMO Services London and arrange a initial consultation.

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