LICENSING OF HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION INFORMATION NOTES BACKGROUND Under the terms of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation) Order 2000 “houses in multiple occupation” must be licensed with the local authority. The requirement has been introduced on a gradual basis which began on 1st October 2000 and, unless your licence is granted by the local authority by the date appropriate to your property, it is a criminal offence to let the property. If convicted, you would be liable to a maximum fine of £5000. The various stages for the introduction of the licence are:- beginning 1st October 2003 more than 2 qualifying persons The Order which brings this into force sets out definitions of the words used including “house”, “family”, “house in multiple occupation” and “owner”. These are precise legal definitions and, because you can be prosecuted for operating illegally, it is strongly recommended that you discuss this matter with a solicitor. Although the Council Officers will be able to talk to you about your application, you will still be liable to conviction if you contravene the terms of the Act. To assist you in assessing whether you require a licence some of the relevant definitions are set out in the final paragraph. LICENSING PROCESS This covers three different aspects:- 1. The Licenceholder In all categories of licensing under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, which includes licences for “houses in multiple occupation”, the licensing authority (North Ayrshire Council) must decided if the applicant is a “fit and proper person” to be the holder of a licence. One of the main aspects of that is consultation with Strathclyde Police to ascertain whether the applicant or any person who will derive benefit from the operation of the premises has a criminal record and, if so, if the type of convictions are relevant to the present application. The Order is also quite specific in that the licenceholder must be the owner of the building. “Owner” is defined as a person “having a heritable interest in the house which is capable of being recorded in the General Register of Sasines or registered in the Land Register”. It will therefore be necessary to arrange for the title deeds of the house to be submitted to the licensing authority in order that that aspect of the application may be checked. Although the application must be by the owner of the property that does not mean that it must be by an individual. Applications by partnerships or companies which own the building will be accepted but details of the company and of its directors, secretary and shareholders will be required. In these cases it will also be necessary to provide details of the day-to-day manager of the premises. It is not just the company which will be checked but each of the parties to the company and the manager to ascertain if they are “fit and proper persons” to be licenceholders. 2. The House The licensing authority must be satisfied that the building is suitable to be licensed and inspections will be carried out to ensure that it meets the required standards. Again, this area involves technical specifications which are mainly those under the Building Regulations. The licensing authority will require seven sets of detailed scaled plans of the house and the notes in the application form set out the standard of drawings required. These plans will be used as the basis of inspections and discussed with the authority in respect of the building and any requirements there may be to bring the building up to a standard which the authority are prepared to licence. Although it is not possible to set down the standards in these notes, brief guidance notes on the physical standards being sought are included in this pack. As will be seen these will cover many aspects of the house, not only the actual structure of the building but factors such as the provision of adequate standards of heating, lighting, ventilation, sanitary facilities, kitchens and fire safety. The licensing authority will be checking many aspects of the property including planning permission. Neighbour notification is also a requirement in terms of the Act and the procedure for this is also covered in the application. However an essential part of the processing of any application will be discussion with the authority and much of the detailed standards can be dealt with during the processing of the application. 3. Tenancy Management The final aspect of the application process relates to the actual operation of the premises. It will be necessary to submit the tenancy agreement which is used in the let of the house to the licensing authority to allow them to ascertain if these meet a basic minimum standard. Again this will require detailed examination of the document and, in all probability, ongoing discussion with the appropriate officers of the authority. The licensing authority will also be looking at the applicants procedures for managing the property and ensuring the compliance of the tenants with the terms of their agreement. LICENSING APPLICATION An application form is included in the pack and notes have been provided in respect of each section. As you will see the application form requests a number of supporting documents including the title deeds, tenancy agreements, plans, insurance and testing certificates and it is advisable to submit these at the time of your application as the process can be delayed whilst this information is obtained. After your application has been received, it is sent out for consultation to the various departments involved and at that stage you may be asked for more information or discussions on a particular aspect of the application. The property will be inspected and you will be contacted to make arrangements for this. This is a joint inspection carried out by the officers of the various departments involved. During the processing of the application and the ongoing discussions it is expected that more information will be required from the applicant. Detailed inspection of the property may also disclose that building warrants are required for works to bring the property to the standard required for the grant of a licence. Failure to supply the necessary information or to make any necessary building warrant application within a reasonable timescale may result in the application being considered for refusal. After the inspections have been carried out the officers will report to the licensing section on any defects they find which cause concern as to whether the property is suitable to be licensed. The applicant will be advised of these and their proposals for rectifying these issues will be requested. Dependent on the type of problem, the applicant will have an opportunity to deal with these matters in an agreed timescale prior to the application being referred to the Licensing Sub-Committee for consideration. At the Committee stage a full report will be given to the applicant and to the Committee and it is a matter for the Committee to decide whether a licence should be granted, granted with special conditions or refused. A Hearing will be arranged at which the applicant has the opportunity to address the Committee on any of the points raised and to submit any supporting evidence they may have for their case. There is a right of appeal against the decision of the Committee to the Sheriff Court in the first instance. This applies not just to a refusal but to any of the conditions imposed with which the applicant does not agree. All applications must be dealt with within a specific timescale set out in the Order and failure by the applicant to supply information to the licensing authority when requested will result in a report being submitted to the Council recommending refusal of the licence on the basis that it is not possible to process the incomplete application. LICENSING CONDITIONS The licence will have attached various conditions mainly relating to the operation of the premises. There will be random inspections of the property by officers of the licensing authority to ensure that these conditions are being complied with. The maximum duration of the licence, once granted, is three years. However the Act allows the licensing authority to consider suspension of the licence during that three year period if contraventions of the conditions are proved to have taken place or if the licenceholder has failed to comply with any undertakings that were given at the time of the grant of the licence. FEES The Act places an obligation on the licensing authority to recover the cost of the operation of the licensing system from the applicants. The cost of processing the initial application is high as it will need to cover detailed inspections of the property and discussions with the applicants both about the building and about tenancy management. It will also cover inspection of the title deeds and of the plans which must be submitted. As a result of that initial cost of the application will be £840 which must accompany the application and thereafter the renewal fee will be £485. These fees are not returnable if you decide to withdraw the application or if the licence is refused. DEFINITIONS A “qualifying person” means a person whose only or principal residence is the house in multiple occupation. This definition also specifically includes a person undertaking a full time course of further or higher education who resides in the house during term time. The house is regarded as his principal residence during term time. A person is a member of the same “family” as another person if:- (a) those persons are married to each other or live together as a couple; or (b) one of them is the parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt or niece of the other and for the purposes of (b) above:- i. a relationship by marriage shall be treated as a relationship by blood; ii. relationship of the half-blood shall be treated as a relationship of the whole blood; iii. the stepchild of a person shall be treated as his or her child A “house in multiple occupation” means a house occupied during any period mentioned in the Order by more qualifying persons than the number specified in the Order in relation to that period, being persons who are not all member either of the same family or of one or other of two families. A “house” includes any part of a building, being a part which is occupied as a separate dwelling and, in particular, includes a flat. Houses comprised within a building which, although otherwise separate, share use of:- (a) a sanitary convenience; or (b) personal washing facilities: or (c) cooking facilities, shall be taken to form part of a single house. A house which is occupied only by qualifying persons, each of whom has a heritable right of ownership in the house; or by a person who is a member of the same family as such a qualifying person shall not be regarded as a house for the purpose of the Order. Each application will be dealt with by various sections of the licensing authority. In order to simplify the process any enquiries with regard to the licence or the application should be referred to the Licensing Office, North Ayrshire Council, Town House, High Street, Irvine, telephone number 01294 311998, fax number 01294 312170. Your enquiry will be dealt with by that office or will be redirected to the appropriate service.
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