Boston

Boston council expects to licence 1,400 HMOs

Boston Borough Council is expecting more than 1,400 Houses in Multiple Occupation ‘to licence’ ahead of new rules coming into force in October.

Under the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018, landlords who fail to acquire a licence by October will be committing a criminal offence.

The new guidelines state that licences will be required for any property containing five or more people from two or more households – previously it only applied to three-storey buildings.

According to the agenda for the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Corporate and Communities committee next Thursday, the authority currently has 24 licensed HMOs, and while estimates by an external company say there could be around 400 licensable HMOs in the borough, officers ‘view this to be too low’ and estimate nearly 60 times more than they have now.

A report before the committee says: “The last 18 months has seen the unprecedented introduction of new legislation and new burdens on Local Housing Authorities.

“For Boston, the extension of Mandatory Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing is currently the most pressing, but very much welcomed, issue for the Local Housing Authority.”

It adds: “In extending the Mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation, the Government anticipated that each local authority area would see a two to three fold increase in the number of mandatorily licensable HMOs; Boston Borough Council currently has 24 licensed HMOs with the data suggesting that we will have up to 1,410 to licence under this extension.”

The new guidelines were announced in February and the council has since been looking at implementing IT changes to deal with the potential increase in workload.

Claiming the speed of changes as ‘critical’, the council has procured a company called Civica to provide HMO licencing front end services for £19,625 over five years, plus £19,999 additional costs including new servers.

A new full-time Private Sector Housing Administrator has also been employed within the Housing team through internal redeployment.

Failure to licence a HMO could see private landlords facing enforcement action including up to £30,000 civil penalties, and the involvement of the Residential Property Tribunal who are able to impose Rent Repayment Orders requiring up to 12 months rent to be repaid on conviction of a failure to licence.

More than two civil penalties could see the property owners being including in a database of rogue landlords.

Proposals, which if approved will go to Cabinet following Thursday’s meeting, currently put licence fees at £948.

There are currently around 30,160-plus properties across the borough.