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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting - 16 November 2011

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety

Consultation on Proposed Additional Licensing Scheme for Houses in multiple occupations

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To note the House in Multiple Occupation Licensing Enforcement Plan and to obtain approval to consult on the introduction of an additional licensing scheme for certain House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) within the Vale of Glamorgan.

Recommendations

It is recommended:

1.             That the HMO licensing Enforcement Plan at Appendix 1 is noted.

2.             That consultation on the introduction of an Additional Licensing scheme for HMOs in the Castleland Renewal Area be undertaken.

3.             That the report is referred to the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To improve the management standards and condition in private rented accommodation.

2.             To meet legal requirements to consult on the proposed declaration of an additional licensing.

3.             For the report to be considered by a Scrutiny Committee.

Background

2.             The Housing Act 2004 radically overhauled the way local authorities regulate standards in private rented housing. From 30 June 2006, the Act introduced a number of new provisions:-

·               The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which replaced the old system of assessing “fitness for human habitation” within properties. This is a far more comprehensive risk based regime allowing Council to take action in relation to 29 areas of potential hazards. 

·               The statutory definition of HMO relates to living accommodation occupied by persons who do not form a single household and two or more of the households sharing one or more basic amenities or buildings consisting  of converted self-contained flats that do not comply with the appropriate building standard.

·               Mandatory licensing requires the Council to operate a licensing scheme for HMOs. This scheme applies to all HMOs with five (or more) people sharing basic amenities in properties with three (or more) storeys. Mandatory licensing applies across the whole of the Council’s area.

3.             Under the Housing Act 2004, there are two powers available for the Council to extend licensing of private rented accommodation to other categories of property:-

·               Additional licensing powers enable the Council to extend the scope of its HMO licensing to other descriptions of HMOs either in all or in part of its district. 

·               Selective licensing powers enable the Council to extend licensing to other types of properties other than just HMOs in an area of the City where there may be issues relating to low housing demand or anti-social behaviour.

4.             In June 2007 the Cabinet approved the HMO Mandatory Licensing policy. As part of the policy the Council continued to carry out pro-active inspections of higher risk HMOs to determine whether they were applicable for Mandatory licensing and take appropriate enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004 Part 1 - Housing Health and Safety Rating system.

5.             Since the introduction of Mandatory Licensing the Council have issued 9 licences and currently have only 6 Mandatory Licensed HMOs.  Full inspections have been carried out on 95 HMOs and enforcement action taken relation to 72 HMOs under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004.

6.             HMO Licences are granted when the Council is satisfied that:

·               The property is suitable (or can be made suitable) for the maximum number of occupants;

·               The licence holder is a fit and proper person, and

·               There are suitable management arrangements in place.

7.             Under the current mandatory scheme a licence costs £630, lasts for a maximum of 5 years and has a wide-ranging set of conditions attached.

8.             The Council's Housing Renewal policy acknowledged that while enforcement under Part 1 is effective in achieving improvements this is often a lengthy and time consuming process and the use of further licensing provision of the Housing Act 2004 will be considered.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.             The general nature of the housing stock and housing demand in Vale of Glamorgan means that the majority of HMO properties are the smaller type premises, or consist of self contained flats, which fall outside the scope of the Mandatory Licensing Regime.

10.        The Council's recent review of the Housing Renewal Policy confirms that the private rented sector, including traditional HMOs and converted buildings have a higher proportion of significant hazards and are in poorer state of disrepair.

11.        To assist in determining the priorities for future enforcement action an updated risk assessment and review has been undertaken of all the known HMOs within the Vale of Glamorgan. Having regard to the Housing Act 2004 definition there are 241 known HMOs in the Vale of Glamorgan, of which 217 are classed as poorly converted self contained flats. Of these properties 19% were classed as high risk and 62% medium risk.

12.        From the risk assessment information 39% of properties had a significant hazard or disrepair, in 29% of properties there were problems with the management standard and 41% did not have the required standard of means of escape from fire.

HMO Licensing Enforcement Plan

13.        To address these issues the HMO Licensing enforcement plan sets out current mandatory licensing arrangements and the proposal for additional HMO licensing for certain areas within the Vale of Glamorgan to deal with the issues identified in this housing sector.

14.        By making a concerted effort in one area, increasing presence and regularly visiting HMOs, it is likely that a more long term sustained improvement of overall property conditions, management standards and neighbourhood environments will occur.

Additional Licensing option

15.        The Welsh Government issued a General Approval to Local Authorities in April 2007 to implement additional licensing.  However, before using the discretionary power to designate an Additional HMO licensing area, the Council must carry out a thorough appraisal and a consultation exercise with stakeholders.

16.        In order to designate an area the Council must be satisfied that:

(a) a significant proportion of the HMOs in an area are being managed sufficiently ineffectively as to give rise to problems either for those occupying the HMO or for other residents in the areas;

(b) That making the designation will significantly assist them to deal with those problems;

(c) That the exercise of this power is consistent with the Local Housing Strategy.

17.        The breakdown of the key risk factors and risk assessment scores for HMO detailed in Annex B of the HMO Enforcement Plan (Appendix 1) clearly identifies the Castleland Renewal Area has the highest number and proportion of poor standard and poorly managed properties.

18.        The figures also indicate that other wards such as Buttrills, Baruc, Cadoc and St Augustine merit future extension of additional licensing to these areas. However, the Castleland Renewal Area boundary does include some properties included in the Buttrills and Court Wards.

19.        A Barry Town wide additional licensing scheme would also have its merits, but because of the number of properties involved significant additional resources would be required for this to achievable over the 5 year period of the scheme

20.        As Council has already committed to improving the housing and surrounding environment within the Castleland Renewal Area though its declaration in 2010, the designation of this area for Additional Licensing would complement and support the aims and objectives of the Renewal Area.

21.        The designation would also complement further proposed supplementary planning guidance and financial assistance options being considered for tackling the declining properties in the upper section of Holton Road.

22.        Additional Licensing could bring significant benefits in Castleland Renewal Area by securing improved housing accommodation and better management of properties and would complement other proposals for the area.

Consultation

23.        The consultation period will run over December 2011 and January 2012.  During this period invitations to comment on the proposed scheme will be sent to all known stakeholders and interest groups in the Vale of Glamorgan to provide an opportunity for comments.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

24.        There are no additional resource implications for the consultation stage of Additional HMO licensing. Any future additional cost would be met from a new HMO licensing fee.

25.        By improving the general conditions of HMOs one of the main benefits will be greater energy efficiency which will contribute positively to the climate change agenda.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

26.        Consultation on the proposed declaration of an additional HMO licensing scheme is required in law by Section 56 of the Housing Act 2004.

Crime and Disorder Implications

27.        The introduction of additional licence scheme will help to control the manner in which HMO are maintained and managed protecting the occupiers and other residents in the area.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

28.        A full Equality Impact Assessment will be completed on the scheme before it is presented to Cabinet with the recommendation to introduce the scheme.

Corporate/Service Objectives

29.        This report is consistent with the following Corporate and Service objectives of the Council: Community Well Being - to make the Vale a safe and healthy place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full.

Policy Framework and Budget

30.        This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and Budget and is for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

31.        Consultation on the proposed declaration of an additional licensing scheme is required in law (Section 56 of the Housing Act 2004). It is proposed that in order to declare the Castleland Renewal Area as an additional licensing scheme area all relevant stakeholders will be consulted.

32.        Local Ward members for Castleland, Butrills and Court wards were invited to a number of briefing sessions on the proposals. Councillors C Elmore, P Drake, B Brooks and R Bertin attended sessions and broadly supported action to regenerate this section of Holton Road.  Requests were made to ensure public consultation was inclusive and consideration given to the working hours of premises in the street

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

33.        Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

Appendix 1 - Draft HMO Licensing Enforcement Plan 2011.

 

Contact Officer

Julian Love, Team Leader Environmental Health Housing

 

Officers Consulted

Sian Davies, Director, Finance, ICT and Property

Alun Billinghurst, Head of Public Protection, Public Protection

Tony Jaques, Head of Housing, Public Sector Housing

Legal Services

Elen Probert, Principal Housing & Pollution Officer

 

Responsible Officer:

Peter H Evans - Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services

 

 

 

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