Posted: Sat 11th Apr 2020

HMO landlords could be made to pay for extra licence in three Denbighshire towns

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Apr 11th, 2020

A council wants to make landlords of homes of multiple occupation (HMO) pay for an additional licence in three more Denbighshire towns.

The additional licence scheme already operates in Rhyl, meaning HMO landlords must pay for an additional licence fee to operate and satisfy strict conditions to qualify.

There are fire, safety and social conditions to being a licence holder and landlords must pass a fit and proper persons test.

Now Denbighshire council is proposing the measure is adopted in Prestatyn, Llangollen and Denbigh.

A consultation, which runs until May 11, is asking for the public’s views on the plan.

The current scheme in Rhyl expired on March 31 and any new scheme wouldn’t come into force until at least three months after the end of the consultation.

The types of HMO which would need an additional licence usually consist of three or more stories and contain five or more occupants, forming two or more households.

However officers have the right to include properties with fewer floors and with fewer rooms under certain circumstances.

According to the proposal document: “The aim of the licensing scheme is to ensure that HMO’s are properly managed by ‘fit and proper’ people; that the premises are suitably equipped with adequate amenities and facilities and that fire safety arrangements are acceptable.

“A licence will also specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO and includes specific standard licence conditions.”

Of Denbighshire’s 7,157  privately rented properties, around 1,333 are estimated to be HMOs.

Around 825 of those are in Rhyl, with approximately 160 in Prestatyn, 120 in Llangollen and 82 in Denbigh.

The council has the discretion to include other types of HMO in their scheme and specific geographical areas to deal with social problems.

This was the case with HMOs in Rhyl from 2009 and the intention was to deal with specific issues associated with some HMOs, including anti-social behaviour and poor management of some properties.

HMOs are subject to inspections from council and fire officers and over the last four years 61% (406) of them revealed category 1 hazards which must be dealt with. Across the board most high risk hazards were found in HMOs.

Fire service data showed, between 2010-2019, 25% (178) of all dwelling fire incidents in Denbighshire occurred in HMOs. Of those, more than half (102) were in Rhyl.

Officers can demand hazards are dealt with and continual non-compliance can lead to court appearances, fines and even imprisonment.

Properties liable to the additional licensing scheme are inspected before it is granted and any landlord who doesn’t apply when they should is committing a criminal offence.

The local authority must grant a licence if it is satisfied that:

  • The HMO is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence
  • The proposed licensed holder is a fit and proper person and the most appropriate person to hold the licence – this means that the licence holder has to declare any unspent convictions
  • The proposed manager, is a fit and proper person
  • The management arrangements are satisfactory
  • It is satisfied that the property is Registered and the managing agent is Licensed with Rent Smart Wales

The property must also comply with strict fire safety and health and safety conditions, plus the landlord must guarantee safeguards are in place to protect against and deal with anti-social behaviour.

Licences are not transferable, meaning it is only valid for the person specified in the application. If the property is sold the new owner must re-apply.

The basic fee, based on five rooms or less in a three storey building, is £820.

Depending on the number of rooms this could increase to £1,370 for properties with 20 rooms – with extra rooms charged at £40 per five-year licence.

However licences for two storey properties begin at £620 for five rooms or less, with a charge of £1,170 for 20 rooms.

Each additional room above that figure would cost £40 per five-year licence.

Singles storey building licences similarly start at £420 for five rooms or less, rising to £770 for 20 rooms – with and additional charge of £40 per room above that figure per five-year-licence.

There is a £200 discount if a full application is received within eight weeks of being notified a licence is required.

Renewals are subject to a 50% discount of the fee and charitable organisations are also liable to receive the same saving.

If enforcement action is required the licence holder will be charged £50 per hour for officer time taken to resolve the action.

To comment on the proposals and see them in more detail visit Denbighshire council’s consultation portal.

By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter

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