SUBMISSION BY THE NOTTINGHAM ACTION GROUP ON HMOs
to the Department for Communities & Local Government Consultation Paper on
Houses in Multiple Occupation and Residential Property Licensing Reforms
October 2016

Background

The Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) is a community-based organisation, formally constituted in February 2004, which is managed by members, all of whom are volunteers. The NAG membership is a network of individuals, many of whom are in their own right also members of residents’ associations and community groups in different neighbourhoods. Most of these are located in the City of Nottingham and are typified by the fact that HMOs have impacted disproportionately on the environmental and amenity value, and on the balance of those neighbourhoods.

Although the NAG’s work around the impact of HMOs has given its membership a much deeper level of insight into housing issues in general, including those associated with the private rented sector as a whole, our principal interest remains with the role HMOs play in providing accommodation for many people, the problems that can be associated with them, and the need to ensure that tenants live in safe, secure and properly managed HMOs.

 Extension of Mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

1. Is the proposal sufficiently clear about how the new scheme will apply to buildings that are HMOs occupied by five persons or more in two or more households? If not please explain why. The proposal requires no further clarification. From its formation in 2004 the NAG has consistently argued for the removal of the mandatory licensing criterion regarding the number of storeys and therefore welcomes this change.

2. Do you agree with our approach with regard to the threshold for mandatory licensing of multiply occupied purpose built flats? If not, please explain why. Whilst we support the principle of mandatory licensing of multiply occupied flats, we do not fully agree with this approach. Although, in theory, this type of accommodation can be covered by additional licensing, its omission from mandatory licensing adds another layer of complication for Local Authority HMO licensing and enforcement teams, and opens a loophole which some landlords will happily exploit.

3. Are the different rules that apply in relation to the mandatory licensing of flats in purpose built blocks and converted premises set out sufficiently clearly? If not please explain why. Whilst the rules have been set out adequately, we do not follow the reasoning behind them on the basis that there is every likelihood that the problems associated with HMOs will also be experienced in purpose-built blocks.

4. Do you agree that where buildings contain individual flats in multiple occupation that these should be separately licensed, including where the flat is in a building which also contains bedsits? If not please explain why. Yes. Individual licensing is essential.

5. Do you agree the licence of a multiply occupied flat should extend to the common parts, in appropriate cases? If not please explain why. Yes, we agree. 

6. How are the common parts dealt with under additional licensing which relate to self-contained flats (a) when the whole building is owned or managed by the licence holder and (b) where the licence holder is a leaseholder of an individual flat let in multiple occupation and doesn’t have control of the common parts? This is an area in which we do not have the necessary expertise to offer any useful comment.

7. Do you agree that the proposal for implementing the new regime in two phases is clear and appropriate? If not please explain why. We agree.

8. Are the transitional arrangements for HMOs that are already licensed, or which ought to have been licensed, clear and appropriate? If not please explain why. They are clear and appropriate.

9. Do you agree that persons sharing protected characteristics are more likely to live in HMOs than in the wider private rented sector? Please give your reasons. Without access to relevant data, we cannot make a definitive statement about whether we agree or not. However, as we have indicated already, the NAG has always supported licensing of all HMOs on the basis that this gives protection to tenants.

10. Do you believe that extending the scope of mandatory licensing will impact upon persons sharing protected characteristics and if so how will it impact upon them? If you think the impact is negative can you suggest how it may be mitigated? Bearing in mind the comments made in Q.9, we are not persuaded that the proposed extension of mandatory licensing will have a disproportionate negative impact on people in this category

National Minimum Room Size

11. Do you agree that the regulations should only apply to rooms occupied by one or two persons? If not, please explain why. The NAG believes that the regulations need to apply to all (bed) rooms rather than to those occupied by one or two persons alone. Indeed the prescribed sizes must increase in proportion to the number of occupants and a maximum number of occupants should be set for each room.

12. Do you agree that there should be no difference in how children and adults are counted for the purpose of the room size condition? If not please explain why. We agree.

13. If you do not agree with question 12 how you would treat children for the purpose of calculating minimum room sizes? See Q.12: no additional comment needed.

14. How easy or difficult would it be for local housing authorities to monitor and enforce where children are to be counted separately from adults? We have no input to offer.

15. Do you agree that the minimum floor to ceiling height should be set at 1.5 metres? If not, do you have an alternative measure that can be used? Please explain your alternative measure. No, we do not agree. We see no reason why HMOs should be excluded from the minimum ceiling height of 2.3 m noted in CLG’s 2015 publication on housing standards. What is essential is that there is consistency across all relevant documentation in order to avoid confusion.

16. Do you think that the proposal not to treat temporary visitors as occupiers is appropriate? Yes, but we question how long a temporary visitor can stay before he/she becomes an occupier.

17. Do you agree that if the landlord causes or permits the occupation of a room which does not comply with the room size rule, they shall be in breach of the HMO licence? The NAG agrees.

18. Do you think the definition of hostel and temporary accommodation providers is appropriate? If not please explain why. Can you give examples of the types of providers whose accommodation may be subject to the exemption? No contribution to make.

19. Do you think that introducing minimum room sizes will impact upon persons sharing protected characteristics and if so how will it impact upon them? If you think the impact is negative can you suggest how it may be mitigated? Please refer to answers given in Q.9 and Q.10.

 

20. How many families living in bedsits or shared houses do you think would be affected by the policy of restricting the number of occupants to specific size of the rooms? We have no data on this.

21. Do you think the impact on the family would be negative or positive? Please explain why. If you think the impact is negative please say how you think it might be mitigated. We believe the impact on families of restricting the number of occupants to specific room sizes can only be beneficial.

Impact Assessment

22. Do you have any comments on the Impact Assessment? We have no observations to make.

 Evidence Relating to the “Fit and Proper Person” Requirement

22. Do you think regulations should be made that would require a criminal record certificate to be obtained for an applicant for a licence and any manager of the property? We fully support this requirement.

23. Do you have a preference for checks through DBS or Disclosure Scotland? If so please explain why. The NAG has no comment to make.

Refuse Disposal Facilities

24 Do you agree that there should be a mandatory condition in HMO licences relating to household refuse? We whole heartedly support this proposal as inadequate waste management and waste disposal, along with anti-social behaviour and inadequate maintenance of HMOs and their curtilages are the most aggravating environmental problems for neighbourhoods where HMOs are present.

25 Do you think the terms of the condition are reasonable and appropriate? We entirely agree with the proposed terms of the condition.

26. Do you think that such a condition would impose additional costs on licence holders? If so please provide an estimate of how much compliance with such a condition might cost and give your reasons. We do not see that this condition will impose additional costs on the licence holder.

Purpose Built Student Housing

27. Is local housing authority intervention in purpose built licensed student accommodation currently minimal? Please give your reasons. No comment to make.

28. Do you think that membership of a code of practice approved under Section 233 ensures acceptable management practice and standards? If not, please explain why. We do not have sufficient data to be able to comment on this.

29. Do you agree that the Secretary of State should consider whether to approve a code of practice under section 233 which relates to purpose built blocks of flats exclusively providing accommodation for students? Please give your reasons. Yes, though we are under the impression that such codes are already in place.

30. Do you agree those private providers who comply with such a code should be entitled to a discount on the standard rate for a licence application? Please give your reasons. We have no direct comment to make. However, it is our belief that if private providers are part of an accreditation scheme, they should benefit from the same conditions as other members of that scheme.

31. Do you think a 50% is appropriate? If not should this be more or less? Please give your reasons. See Q.30 above.

32. What savings could a landlord expect by a reduction in fees of say 50%? No comment to make.

Submitted 10 December 2016