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3 Years On – HMO Licensing Starts To Show Benefits

3 Years On – HMO Licensing Starts To Show Benefits

Over the past few years the PDPLA has been vocal in its objections and resistance to the licensing of HMO"s (Houses In Multiple Occupation - More than 2 Unrelated Occupants in One Dwelling) in the south of Portsmouth (PO1/PO4/PO5). Our arguments have centred on the additional workload and costs for the landlords who participate and the lack of apparent action against those that don"t.

This month we heard quite a bit of positive news...

The scheme has a Governance Board comprising councillors, council employees, university and letting agent representatives plus a representative from each of the PDPLA, the NLA and the RLA. Our chair, Martin Silman attends to represent our interests and our own Tony Athill also attends as a local representative of the RLA. At this months meeting we learnt:

  • Firstly, it was confirmed that a large letting agent who in the past, had sponsored the Students Union, had sent reps wearing University colours to 'Find a Home" days with the intent of signing people up ahead of more reputable agents and who have been universally despised by tenants, landlords and authorities are no longer allowed to manage HMO"s and the 90+ properties they used to manage have now been transferred to other agents
  • We have previously reported that Red Vista, who were targeting HMO landlords with a view to sub-letting have lost their ability to do so, having been found guilty of overcrowding
  • Also, a new 44 room student hall (pub conversion) which had hoped to avoid licensing regulations as it achieved planning consent as a hall (C5 rather than the normal C4) has not managed to do so and may need to close unless it can meet the same standards that we need to.
  • At least 3 landlords with more than 50 properties between them are either being prosecuted or taken under management by PCC or other actions to bring their management and standards to the same level that we all adhere to..
  • And one landlord has been told he needs to reduce the number of occupants in his property and also spend around £10,000 to bring it up to the necessary standard

In addition to these enforcement actions, we discussed a number of other areas which look promising.

PCC have employed two Community Liaison Officers whose role is basically to get communities living more harmoniously together. One area of the city that has generated most complaints about students, rubbish, HMO"s and the like and which as a result has driven councillors to get ever heavier handed in the management of HMO"s has been 'the ladders" (the group of roads between Somers Rd and Victoria Rd North including Margate, Playfair and others). In this area, Gemma, one of the Community Liaison Officers, set up 6 homeowner focus groups almost a year ago. Initially, all the attendees want to do is complain about whatever it was that caused them to volunteer to attend but over time, discussions become more constructive and different groups are brought together to work together.

In addition to the homeowner groups, there is now a student tenant group and the recently formed landlord group details of which were shared with members directly through This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The plan is that eventually, the individual groups will work together / join together and as a result, the level of complaints reaching the council will reduce simply because residents will learn to talk to each other rather than using the council to solve their problems. Whether you agree with the use of tax and licence payers money to teach people to live together better is irrelevant, if this works it should be welcomed by local landlords as it will reduce the pressure for additional regulation and could also, relax constraints on establishing new HMO"s.

There was also debate about the balance between inspections of licensed HMO"s and enforcement - whilst PCC are legally required to inspect all licensed properties once in the 5-year license period, we made it clear along with others that our preference is that more effort is directed at enforcement than inspections - so hopefully, once your properties are shown to have attained the required standard you will not be required to undergo additional inspections later in the licensing period.

And for those who like numbers.....

A '257" property is one which has been converted from a single dwelling into flats prior to building regulation changes in the early 1990"s and which cannot show that conversion was to the required building standard at the time. 257"s in which one of the new dwellings are occupied by the owner / landlord / freeholder do not need an HMO licence but those which are all rented do need to be licensed.

So far, 2901 properties have been identified as HMO"s with an additional 168 licensable 257"s and of these, 2,678 HMO"s have a licence and 147 of the 257"s also do. The rest are 'in the process" or are being 'enforced" - current enforcement tallies are that 2 dwellings are being managed by PCC (google 'Interim Management Order" for detail of how this works), 2 landlords have been prosecuted, 2 more cases are due in court on 15th March plus3 are waiting for court dates and others are under investigation.

In conclusion, we never thought licensing was needed and hoped that existing rules and regulations gave PCC the tools with which to manage the bad agents and landlords. PCC disagreed and argued for Licensing which they now have and at last, it looks like it is doing what both we and they always wanted - clearing out the worst agents and landlords and improving standards for tenants.

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Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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