The actions below are proposed by Labour candidates in areas which are affected by the rapid proliferation of houses of multiple occupancy. As well as campaigning for their inclusion in the Labour manifesto for the 2015 local election, we will be asking the council directly to adopt these actions.
HMO Licensing and registration in Article Four areas
Labour Manifesto Process Discussion Points
- The council should use all data available to proactively identify existing HMOs, including the council tax and/or electoral register rather than just waiting for public input.
- Set a cut-off date by which time all existing HMOs will have been identified, such as the end of July 2015. (this date for policy planning purposes only at this time)
- Advise all HMO applicants after the cut-off date that an HMO license cannot be processed until planning consent has been given.
- Currently, properties without planning permission or an HMO licence are being marketed to tenants by both landlords and letting agents. The council should clearly advise all HMO applicants that planning consent should be granted before the property is used as an HMO; that HMO licensing requires that the property meets particular specifications and if these are not met a license may not be granted; and that any risk that tenants have been exposed to due to the use of the property contrary to planning permission is entirely the responsibility of the owner and/or letting agent.
- From this point on, letting agents which are accredited by the council and are still advertising properties for a use as an HMO would be doing so contrary to planning permission. The council should write to all accredited letting agents which market properties in Article 4 areas, and advise them that planning consent is required for any HMO conversions and that until that consent has been granted the property should not be marketed to potential tenants. Failure to do this by the letting agent should result in loss of their accreditation
- Sales agents sometimes claim that they do not know of the planning restrictions when marketing properties to buy-to-let investors. This is not acceptable. We ask the council to draw up an Information Pack, downloadable from the website, explaining all of the restrictions around HMO licensing and planning in Article 4 areas, and ask sales agents to pass it to all potential buyers in those areas. A paper copy should also be given to all sales agents by the council.
- The council should set up a landlords’ registration scheme with annual fees which reflect the full and complete cost to the council of providing services to HMOs and their impact on the community. These services all cost money. Many HMO landlords operate several properties as a business and do not pay business rates to the council. Similarly, students do not pay council tax even though the council provides many services to students living in residential areas. The money to fund these services has to be found from somewhere.
Policy proposal from
Tracey Hill (Labour candidate for Hollingdean & Stanmer)
Chris Taylor (Labour candidate for Hanover & Elm Grove)