The Council is consulting on a proposed Additional Licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) for parts of the borough. We are seeking your views on our proposal to introduce an Additional Licensing Scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in 4 wards of the borough - Paddock, Palfrey, Pleck and St Matthew’s.
Additional licensing operates in the same way, and alongside, the existing mandatory licensing scheme. However, while mandatory licensing is for HMOs with 5 or more people, Additional licensing applies to all private rented properties occupied by 3 or 4 tenants who are unrelated and who share facilities such as a kitchen, toilet or bathroom.
HMOs in general are both a popular and valuable type of accommodation for many younger residents and for residents on lower incomes who are looking for an affordable home. The Council is committed to ensuring that this type of accommodation, as with other forms, is of a good quality. Quality in this type of accommodation is represented by homes that are kept in good repair condition, are safe and offer a reasonable standard of basic amenities such as toilets, bathrooms and kitchens and that they are not overcrowded. In essence this means that they are well managed.
It is recognised however, that there are landlords and agents who are managing their HMOs sufficiently ineffectively as to give rise, or to be likely to give rise, to one or more particular problems either for those occupying the HMOs or for members of the public.
By introducing an Additional Licensing scheme the Councils aims to:
- ensure minimum legal standards of accommodation are provided including safe gas and electrical appliances, fire safety precautions, suitable room sizes and adequate provision of amenities for the number of occupants
- ensure that the HMOs are well managed
- neighbourhood improvement and the prevention and control of anti-social behaviour
- ensure the licence holder and manager are ‘fit and proper'
- identify rogue landlords and enabling action to be taken to respond to their behaviour
Private rented HMOs occupied by 3 or 4 people living together as 2 or more separate households (unrelated) and which meets the standard, self-contained flat or converted building test in Section 254 of the Housing Act 2004.
Before Additional Licensing can be introduced, it is a statutory requirement (under the Housing Act) that the council consults on the proposal with residents, tenants, landlord, businesses, and other stakeholders in the proposed area and surrounding.
Statutory Consultation starts on 22 February until midnight on 6 June 2021 (15 weeks).
After the consultation a report summarising the findings will be produced and considered by Cabinet alongside other information and data. At this time Cabinet will then decide whether:
- not to proceed with the licensing scheme at this time
- change the proposed licensing scheme and implement it
- approve the licensing scheme and implement it.
The Additional Licence will last for a maximum of 5 years. However, the licence duration would be reflective of landlord’s promptness of application and property condition at the time of licensing. For example, where a landlord applies late, fails to provide relevant certificates, or only make an application because they have been found out or have to make significant changes to make the property compliant, they will be considered for a licence with a reduced duration ranging from 1 to 4 years as a maximum.
Whilst the exact detail of fees to be charged cannot be determined at this stage, in order to meet the scheme running costs, it is estimated that the council will be looking at an average cost of £675 per Additional Licence for the maximum period of 5 years.
The proposed fee schedule for Additional Licensing is available here.
Yes – we currently licence privately rented HMOs occupied by 5 or more persons in 2 or more households sharing an amenity under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004. This is known as Mandatory Licensing of HMOs.
If approved by Cabinet, and after providing appropriate notice the scheme will be implemented later in 2021.
No. An additional licence cannot be transferred to another person, property or organisation.
The process would be similar to that for Mandatory HMO Licences.
This is a property licence scheme and every HMO property a landlord owns within the proposed boundary would need its own Additional Licence.
It is a legal requirement for landlords to apply for a licence, and a criminal offence if a landlord fails to do so. Failure to apply for a licence could either lead to:
- a prosecution, with the penalty of a criminal conviction and an unlimited fine or
- a civil penalty fine of up to £30,000.
Landlords should also be aware that tenants (or the council if the council pays housing benefits towards the rent) could seek what is known as a rent repayment order.
Tenants will be able to inform the Council if they believe their home is unlicensed. The council will use a variety of methods, working with other partners to seek out unlicensed properties. There will be a public register of all licensed properties, as we have for Mandatory licensed HMOs, so it will be easy for residents to find out if the property they are concerned about is licensed or not.
The council can only grant a licence to someone who is in control of the property. It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that an application for a licence is made for their property; however, they may not necessarily be the licence holder.
Landlords who manage their properties directly should apply for a licence. Where a managing agent is used, the managing agent could apply for the licence and the landlord will need to provide information about the property and give their consent.
Where a manager is employed, financial arrangements must be in place to ensure that any works deemed necessary for the proper management and maintenance of the property can be carried out.
When a limited company is the licence holder, then the company secretary or other authorised signatory should be the licence holder. You must be a resident in the UK to be a licence holder.
The Council will determine whether a licence holder is "fit and proper" by considering:
- previous convictions linked to drugs, fraud, or violence
- whether the licence holder has broken any housing law
- whether the licence holder has failed in the past to manage HMOs in line with approved code of practice
There will be a range of conditions attached to each licence which will relate to the management of the property. There are some mandatory conditions, which we are required by law to place on the licence. These include conditions about gas safety, electrical safety, smoke alarms etc. We are not consulting on these as they cannot be changed and must be applied when a council undertakes Additional Licensing.
The council has the discretion and plans to use it to attach a range of local conditions. These will include conditions on property management and dealing with anti-social behaviour amongst others. Full details of these conditions can be found here.
If a licence is issued and the conditions are subsequently breached by the licence holder (or person bound by the licence conditions) they commit a criminal offence and this could lead to the Council taking Court action or issuing a civil penalty of up to £30,000.
Breaching the licence conditions could lead to the revocation of the licence in certain cases unless a suitable alternative licence holder could be found.
Landlords / agents should also note that the council can also add an agent or landlord to the National Database of Rogue Landlords and Agents where more than one civil penalty notice has been issued against them in a 12 month period.
No, the Council will not raise any revenue by implementing this scheme. Any generated income from licensing fees can only be used to cover the running costs of the Additional Licensing scheme.
A list of licenced HMOs in the borough of Walsall can be viewed here.
The council will keep a record of the Additional Licensed HMOs in the same way as the Mandatory Licensed HMOs. The list will be published on the council’s website.
Additional Licensing of HMOs requires landlords to provide items such as gas safety certificates, the safe provision of electrical appliances and furniture and to keep the fire detection and alarm system in working order. These standards will be enforced under this scheme and should provide a greater degree of safety and reassurance to tenants.
Tenants will have the reassurance that checks have been done to ensure both the property and any shared facilities are suitable and that the property is suitable to be occupied by the number of people living there.