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Deadline looms for landlords over houses of multiple occupation

Politics / Wed 8th Jul 2015 at 01:39pm

LANDLORDS operating houses in multiple occupation (HMO) in the town are being urged by Harlow Council to apply for a licence before the end of the month.

Since April 2015 all homes where more than one household live now have to be licenced by Harlow Council. This follows the introduction of an additional HMO licensing scheme in the town. The changes have been introduced by the Council to improve the standard of all HMOs, improve living conditions and respond to concerns raised by residents living near them.

Letters have been sent out to around 200 landlords and the Council is currently processing applications for the additional scheme. So far 13 licences have been issued following inspections carried out by the Council.

On 1 August 2015 the Council will begin immediate enforcement action against any unlicensed HMOs and where applying for a licence was avoided by a Landlord an additional £200 per property will be charged on top of the licence fee.

The enforcement action may include prosecution against the owner or manager of the property or the Council taking over the management of poorly managed HMOs. The maximum fine for failing to have a licence is £20,000 and an automatic ban from operating any HMO in the UK. Tenants can also request the court to issue a Rent Repayment Order which could require the Landlord to pay 12 months’ of rent back.

By law a property that is three (or more) storeys high, containing five or more persons who form two or more households requires a mandatory HMO licence. Additionally for Harlow, properties where a group of three or more people who are not all members of the same family living in the same building also require a licence.

Licensed HMOs are regularly inspected by Council Officers and must meet the appropriate standards for fire precautions and facilities for the number of occupants. Particularly important fire safety requirements are:

· A hard-wired interlinked fire alarm system must be present.

· The underside of the main staircase is lined to provide a 30 minute resistance to fire

· Fire doors providing 30 minute resistance to fire are fitted to all bedrooms and the kitchen leading onto the escape route.

Councillor Mark Wilkinson, Portfolio Holder for Environment, said: “The additional HMO scheme has been introduced by the Council after much consideration and a consultation period held earlier this year.

This is about improving the quality of private rented accommodation and is something which should be welcomed by landlords, those living in HMOs and those living around them. We know the majority of HMOs are operated by landlords who provide safe quality accommodation but unfortunately there are some landlords who don’t meet standards and this is ultimately who we are targeting. By ensuring that all HMOs are licensed means that we can inspect properties, make sure standards are met and take action if necessary to protect residents.”

“If you are a landlord operating a HMO and you need a licence for the additional scheme please apply now so we can work with you to ensure the licence is in place before enforcement action begins.”

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