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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 1ST DECEMBER, 2011

 

REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 16TH NOVEMBER, 2011

 

 

C1513           CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED ADDITIONAL LICENSING SCHEME FOR HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION (HCS) (SCRUTINY - HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION) -

 

Cabinet approval was sought to consult on the introduction of an Additional Licensing scheme for certain Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) within the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

The Housing Act 2004 radically overhauled the way local authorities regulated standards in private rented housing with the Act introducing a number of new provisions relating to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS); the introduction of a statutory definition of HMO relating to living accommodation occupied by persons who did 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 did not comply with the appropriate building standard and the introduction of a mandatory licensing requirement for Councils to operate a licensing scheme for HMOs.

 

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 par 1 - Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Since the introduction of that Policy, the Council had issued nine licences and currently had only six Mandatory Licensed HMOs.  Full inspections had been carried out on 95 HMOs and enforcement action taken in relation to 72 HMOs under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004.  A licence costs £630, lasts for a maximum of five years and had a wide-ranging set of conditions attached.   The Council’s Housing Renewal Policy acknowledged that while enforcement under Part 1 was effective in achieving improvements, this was often a lengthy and time consuming process and the use of further licensing provisions of the Housing Act 2004 would be considered.

 

The Council’s recent review of the Housing Renewal Policy confirmed that the private rented sector, including traditional HMOs and converted buildings had a higher proportion of significant hazards and were in a poorer state of disrepair.  To assist in determining the priorities for future enforcement action an updated risk assessment and review had been undertaken of all known HMOs within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Having regard to the Housing Act 2004 definition there were 241 known HMOs in the Vale of Glamorgan, of which 217 were classed as poorly converted self contained flats.  Of these properties, 19% were classed as high risk and 62% medium risk.  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. 

 

To address the above problems the HMO Licensing Enforcement Plan set 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.

 

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.  In order to designate an area the Council must satisfy that:

 

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

·       making the designation would significantly assist them to deal with those problems

·       that the exercise of this power was consistent with the Local Housing Strategy.

 

The breakdown of the key risks and risk assessment scores for HMO detailed in Annex B of the HMO Enforcement Plan set out in Appendix 1 to the report clearly identified the Castleland Renewal Area as having the highest number and proportion of poor standard and poorly managed properties.  The figures also indicated that other wards such as Buttrills, Baruc, Cadoc, Barry and St. Augustine, Penarth merited future extension of future licensing to these areas. 

 

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 be achievable over the five year period of the scheme. 

 

The Council has already committed to improving the housing and surrounding environment within the Castleland Renewal Area through its declaration in 2010, the designation of this area for Additional Licensing would complement and support the aims and objectives of the Renewal Area.  The designation would also complement further proposed supplementary planning guidance and financial assistance options being considered for tackling the declining properties in the Upper part of Holton Road, Barry.

 

It was considered that additional licensing could bring significant benefits in Castleland renewal Area by securing improved housing accommodation and better management of properties and thus complement other proposals for the area. 

 

It was noted that the consultation period would run from December 2011 to the end of January 2012.  During this period invitations to comment on the proposed scheme would be sent to all known stakeholders and interest groups in the Vale of Glamorgan to provide an opportunity for comments.

 

This matter was for Executive decision.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the HMO Licensing Enforcement Plan as attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved for consultation.

 

(2)       T H A T consultation on the introduction of an Additional Licensing Scheme for HMOs in the Castleland Renewal Area be undertaken.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(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 scheme for HMOs.

 

(3)       For the report to be considered by the Scrutiny Committee.”

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Cabinet: 16th November 2011