A new online tool launched by Westminister Council promises to check if HMOs are licensed or not; allowing for a crackdown on rogue landlords operating HMOs unscrupulously. Whilst this new tool only covers this particular area, what would happen if one was to be introduced in Manchester and the surrounding boroughs?
Eradicating rogue landlords from the rental sector is always a positive step. Many of these landlords that operate HMO properties will typically do so without a license. The new tool, now introduced by Westminister Council, promises to help them identify HMOs operating without a license, and also to potentially offer up to 12 months rent repayment to the HMO occupants.
A license is required to operate an HMO if a certain number of tenants are using shared facilities within a household; this varies depending on each area and council requirements.
Letting a licensed HMO to more than the maximum number permitted is an offence which can also result in a fine of up to £20,000. Anyone failing to comply with licence conditions placed on them commits an offence which could result in a fine of up to £5,000 per offence. Prosecutions for these offences would take place in the Magistrates’ Court.
In hindsight, this seems like a great push by Westminister council to proactively track down the landlords operating without a license. The catch, however, is that the tool has to be used voluntarily by tenants already in an HMO property. Once an HMO occupant has consented, they can use the digital checker to find out if they are living in an unlicensed property or not; with further communication from the council regarding the case.
If they believe they may be entitled to apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO), tenants will be put in contact with the Safer Renting organisation, who will guide them through the process of applying to the Property Tribunal for an RRO.
Councillor Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing at Westminster City Council said: “Our goal is to make Westminster a place where high-quality housing is available to all.
“A good home is at the centre of people’s lives and we hope this new online tool will help tenants to be aware of their rights and check whether their landlords are abiding by the rules.
“We would encourage all landlords letting homes of multiple occupation to ensure they are being responsible and meeting their full legal obligations or face the consequences.”
In the event that a similar tool were to be deployed in Greater Manchester, it would have to cater to the differing regulations in place by each council. Much like the Westminister incarnation, it would likely require tenants to check themselves and aid the council in identifying the properties operating without licenses.
There are some areas of Greater Manchester, particularly Salford, which are highly saturated with HMO properties; both licensed and unlicensed. With the thousands of occupants renting rooms across the region, the success of such a tool would require the tenants to be made aware of its existence in the first place. Landlords who operate HMOs without a license certainly aren’t going to be the first ones to inform their tenants, whilst the council aren’t ones to put together large advertising budgets to put it in the spotlight.
In the long run, it is better to be safe than sorry. By operating an HMO with a license, you avert the risk of accumulating fines and ultimately a court appearance. By using a thorough and effective management agent like Abode, your HMO will be managed and operated by the book where regulations are concerned. For more information, call us on 0161 883 2525.