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					                                                                  Appendix 1
Private Rented Housing
Policy for HMO Licensing and Regulation

Draft




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1.        Introduction

1.1       The Housing Act 2004 radically overhauls the way the Council regulates standards
          in private rented housing. It also introduces compulsory licensing of certain houses
          in multiple occupation (HMO) see 3.2 below for definition. These changes are due
          to come into force on 6 April 2006.

1.2       Richmondshire District Council aims to ensure that private rented accommodation
          is of a decent standard to protect the health and safety of tenants. The Council
          sees the new legislation as an opportunity to improve the services provided by
          landlords and provide decent homes for tenants.

1.3       This policy sets out the way the Council will implement the requirements of the
          Housing Act 2004 in relation to HMO licensing and health and safety hazards.


2.        The Wider Picture

2.1       This policy is written in the context of Richmondshire District Council’s Housing
          Strategy.




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3.        HMO Licensing

3.1       The aim of HMO licensing is to improve controls of HMOs, including mandatory
          licensing of some of the highest risk properties, which house some of the most
          vulnerable people, while maintaining an adequate supply of rented
          accommodation.


3.2       An HMO is a building occupied by more than one household and includes hostels,
          shared houses, and houses containing bedsits.

          The Housing Act 2004 includes a new definition of households, which is a family
          unit, including single persons and co-habiting couples (whether or not of opposite
          sex).

3.3       HMOs of three or more stories, with five or more occupiers must be licensed.
          There are exemptions such as social housing, HMOs owned by the police, health
          authorities, universities and some other listed organisations, and buildings
          converted into flats which meet the relevant 1991 Building Regulation standards.

3.4       Licences will be granted where the house is reasonably suitable for occupation as
          an HMO, the management arrangements are satisfactory and the licensee and
          manager are fit and proper persons. The applicant must be the most appropriate
          person to hold the licence. A member of the Environmental Protection team may
          visit before licensing a HMO to assess compliance with the licensing requirements
          and the number of people the HMO should be licensed for.

3.5       The Council is required to assess whether the applicant and any manager and any
          person associated with them or formerly associated with them are fit and proper
          people to own or manage an HMO. This information will be obtained through the
          application form and a Criminal Record Bureau Check if necessary.
          A person will be considered fit and proper if the Council is satisfied that:
                  they have no unspent convictions relating to offences involving fraud,
                   dishonesty, violence or drugs, or sexual offences
                  they have no unspent convictions relating to unlawful discrimination on
                   grounds of sex, race, or disability
                  they have no unspent convictions relating to housing or landlord and tenant
                   law
                  they have not been refused a HMO licence, been convicted of breaching the
                   conditions of a licence or have acted otherwise than in accordance with the
                   approved code of practice under S197 of the Act within the last five years
                  they have not been in control of a property subject to an HMO Control Order
                   an Interim Management Order or Final Management Order or work in
                   default carried out by a Local Authority
                  they have not been subject to legal proceedings by a Local Authority for
                   breaches of planning, compulsory purchase, environmental protection
                   legislation or other relevant legislation.




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3.6       Licences will be valid for five years and will specify the maximum number of
          occupiers or households. The occupancy number will depend on the number and
          size of rooms and the kitchen and bathroom facilities.

3.7       The following mandatory conditions must be applied to all licences:
                  to provide copies of gas safety certificates annually
                  to keep electrical appliances and furniture safe
                  to keep smoke alarms in working order
                  to provide tenants with a written tenancy agreement
                  to demand references for tenants

3.8       Following licensing, HMOs will be prioritised for assessment under the Housing
          Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS – see section 5 below). The owner
          must deal with all Category 1 hazards within one year of the licence being granted.
          If they do not, then the Council is expected to use their enforcement powers to
          improve the property.

3.9       The Council may serve a Temporary Exemption Notice (TEN) where a landlord is,
          or shortly will be, taking steps to make an HMO non-licensable. A TEN can only be
          granted for a maximum period of three months. A second three-month TEN can be
          served in exceptional circumstances.

3.10      Where a landlord is convicted for failure to license an HMO, the Council can apply
          to the Residential Property Tribunal. The Residential Property Tribunal will replace
          the courts and will judge cases relating to offences and appeals under the Act. The
          Residential Property Tribunal has the power to request that up to 12 months’ rent
          be repaid to the Council where a tenant is on housing benefits. Tenants can also
          apply to the Residential Property Tribunal for repayment of any rents they have
          paid.

3.11      Where there is no prospect of an HMO being licensed, the Act requires that the
          Council use its interim management powers. This enables the Council to take over
          the management of an HMO and become responsible for running the property and
          collecting rent for up to a year. In extreme cases this can be extended to five years
          with the Council also having the power to grant tenancies.

3.12      The Council has the power to set up additional HMO licensing schemes in areas
          with low housing demand or areas where HMOs are badly managed and are
          causing a significant and persistent anti-social behaviour problem.

          In Richmondshire there are currently no areas that meet these requirements.

3.13      The majority of HMOs in Richmondshire will not be licensable. This is because the
          majority of housing in Richmondshire is low density and below 3 storeys high. Only
          a small number of HMOs will meet both criteria of being 3 storeys or above and
          having five or more occupants.




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4.           HMO Licensing Policies

             Policy 1 - Encouraging Applications

             The Council will encourage landlords to apply for licences using a variety
             of methods.
             We will:
               Publicise the need to license HMOs
               Provide information on the Richmondshire District Council website.
               Provide an information leaflet.
               Send letters and reminders to known landlords.
               Send letters to letting agents.
               Provide both electronic and paper application forms.
               Offer assistance to applicants where resources permit e.g. with completion of
                  forms

             Policy 2 - Fees For Licences

             The Council will charge the following license fee bands. Where full
             applications are received before July 2006, a 20 percent discount will
             apply.

              Bands       Description                                          Fee
              Band        Properties with maximum permitted occupancy of       £360
              A           between 5-6
              Band        Properties with maximum permitted occupancy of       £410
              B           between 7-9 persons
              Band        Properties with maximum permitted occupancy of       £490
              C           between 10-14 persons
              Band        Properties with maximum permitted occupancy of       £550
              D           more than 15 persons

          The fee has been set to cover the Council’s costs of licensing HMOs. See
          appendix 1 for the fee structure. The discount for applications received before July
          2006 is in order to encourage early applications.

          Policy 3 - Rent Repayment Orders

          Where a landlord is convicted for failure to license and the rent is paid as
          Housing Benefit, the Council will apply to the Residential Property Tribunal
          for a Rent Repayment Order and will advise tenants to do the same.

          The Council intends to use its powers under the Act to seek rent repayment orders
          for repayment of twelve months’ Housing Benefit or for the period since the
          landlord was required to license the HMO, if this is less. We will provide other
          tenants with information on how to apply.




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          Policy 4 – HMO Standards

          The Council will determine the number of people an HMO is licensed for and
          the facilities required in accordance with the prescribed standards.

          The prescribed standards are summarised as follows:

              In general, one bathroom and toilet per 5 occupants (if facilities are shared).
              Bathrooms and toilets to be of an adequate size and layout, suitably located,
               and with an adequate supply of hot and cold water.
              Kitchens to be equipped with facilities to adequately enable the occupants of
               the house to store, prepare and cook food.
              Adequate means of space heating must be provided.
              Appropriate fire precautionary equipment to be provided in communal areas.

          Policy 5 – Management Arrangements

          We will expect the licensee to have satisfactory arrangements and funding in
          place for the management of the HMO.

          Satisfactory arrangements for management will include:
                  Compliance with the statutory Management Regulations within three
                   months.
                  A system for tenants to report defects, including in emergencies.
                  Arrangements to be in place to respond to those requests.
                  A process to deal with anti-social behaviour occurring within the HMO by
                   tenants or their visitors.
                  Arrangements to be in place for periodic inspections to identify where repair
                   or maintenance is needed.

          If the manager of the HMO is not the owner, then the owner must sign a
          declaration stating that adequate funding is available to the manager for repairs.

          Policy 6 – Discretionary Licence Conditions

          In addition to the mandatory licensing conditions (see 3.7 above), the
          Council will apply discretionary conditions to all licences.

          These will include:
                  to provide copies of reports of fire detection and alarm system to the Council
                   on request.
                  the name, address and telephone number of the licensee or manager to be
                   displayed in the common parts of the HMO.
                  a copy of a valid gas safety certificate to be displayed in the common parts.
                  a copy of the licence to be displayed in the common parts.




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          The Council will apply other conditions to individual licences with respect to the
          use, management and occupation of the HMO where appropriate, and may seek
          evidence of compliance with conditions at any time.

          Policy 7 – Temporary Exemption Notices

          The Council will not routinely grant more than one three month Temporary
          Exemption Notice (TEN).

          A TEN will be served where an owner of a licensable HMO states in writing that
          he/she is taking steps to make an HMO non-licensable and states that the HMO
          will not be licensable within three months. The Council does not wish these notices
          to be used routinely, and therefore a second TEN will only be acceptable in
          exceptional and unforeseen circumstances. Any exception to the policy must be
          authorised by the Environment Unit Manager.

          Policy 8 - Discretionary HMO Licensing

          The Council does not intend to set up any additional discretionary licensing
          schemes for HMOs, but will keep this under review.

          We are satisfied that there is no need at present to set up any additional licensing
          scheme, but we will review this policy annually.

          Policy 9 – Bed and Breakfast Hotels

          The Council will declare bed and breakfast hotels as HMOs if they are
          housing any people who use the hotel as their main residence for more than
          30 consecutive days.

          We believe that where this accommodation is used as a main residence, the same
          standards as for other HMOs should be met.




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5.        Housing Health and Safety Rating System and Enforcement
          Regime
5.1       The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) will replace the existing
          fitness standard with effect from 6 April 2006. HHSRS is a risk assessment of the
          effect of housing conditions on the health of occupiers. It involves the assessment
          of 29 potential hazards and scoring of their severity in the property being inspected
          to decide whether improvements are needed. If more serious Category 1 hazards
          are found then the Council has a duty to require the owner to remedy the defect. If
          less serious Category 2 hazards are found, then the Council has discretionary
          power to require action.

5.2       The enforcement regime involves a new set of Legal Notices to deal with those
          HHSRS hazards requiring improvement, prohibition of the use of the dwelling or
          demolition. The notices are similar to those currently used except that a prohibition
          notice can be served to prohibit the use of part of a dwelling or use by a description
          of high risk persons, for example those aged under five or over 60.

5.3       When a hazard is identified, the Council must decide the most practical course of
          action. There is no longer a legal requirement for a prior warning notice to be
          served, so the Council will ensure that the landlord and tenant(s) have the
          opportunity to discuss the Council’s proposed action before a notice is served.

5.4       An improvement notice will be the most practical remedy for most hazards; repair
          or renewal is generally cost-effective because of the high value of property in
          Richmondshire. However, prohibition notices may be required on part or all of a
          dwelling, for example, where there is inadequate natural lighting or there is no fire
          escape from the top floor. The Council can serve suspended improvement notices.
          These can be used in circumstances where obtaining other consents will cause
          delay – an example would be where planning permission is needed for the
          improvement works to be carried out.




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6.        Housing Health and Safety Rating System Policies

          Policy 10 – Category 2 Hazards

          The Council will only deal with Category 2 hazards in exceptional
          circumstances.

          We have a duty to ensure that Category 1 hazards are remedied. We have
          discretionary powers to deal with Category 2 hazards, which are lower risk. Our
          resources will not allow us to deal with all Category 2 hazards. We will only deal
          with these hazards in exceptional circumstances relating to health, vulnerability,
          cold and entry by intruders.

          Example of a Category 1 Hazard: Dampness throughout a property causing mould
          growth and affecting the respiratory health of the tenants.

          Example of a Category 2 Hazard: Exposed hot pipes in a bedroom, which could
          potentially cause minor scalds.

          Policy 11 - Improvement Notices

          Where an Improvement Notice is served, the Council will require sufficient
          works to abate the hazard for a minimum of five years.

          The law prescribes that the minimum works must abate the hazard. We will require
          works of a reasonable durability to prevent recurrence. We consider five years to
          be reasonable as a minimum time period to ensure that works are undertaken to a
          satisfactory standard.




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7.        Enforcement

          Enforcement action will be part of a range of responses as described in the
          Environmental Protection Quality Manual: Procedure for Investigating Complaints.
          The action taken will be the most appropriate for each individual circumstance.
          Enforcement action will be based upon receipt of a complaint, a licence application
          or where an assessment of risk indicates a property is sub-standard. Tenants are
          expected to have informed the landlord of the problems with disrepair before
          contacting the Council for assistance.

          Before serving a notice, we will discuss the need for a notice with the landlord and
          tenants, where possible, and will outline the works required. Failure to comply with
          a statutory notice will normally lead to Court proceedings.




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Appendix 2
Proposed HMO License Fee
Calculation of Officer Time

      Action                                                      Time
                                                                  Admin   EHO     Head of
                                                                                  Environment
                                                                                  al Protection
1     Enquiry received and service request entered                00:15
      on UNIFORM
2     Landlord telephoned, information pack and                           00:30
      letter sent out
Application form returned
3     Details of application entered onto UNIFORM                 00:15
4     Cheque processed                                            00:15
5     Generate acknowledgement letter and send to                 00:30
      applicant.
6     Make up new premises file                                   00:15
File passed to EHO for action
7     Check application valid e.g. all compulsory                         00:30
      questions completed and correct fee included
8     Check all particulars entered on computer                           00:15
      premises record correctly
9     Examine gas safety and other certificates                           01:00
      submitted with licence for validity
10 Carry out fit and proper person checks with                            02:00
      other Council services e.g. Council tax,
      housing benefit, and external agencies e.g.
      other local authorities
11 Visit property to check licence details and                            02:00
      determine priority for inspection
12 Travel time                                                            00:30
13 Prepare licence documents and letters to all                           01:30
      relevant parties
14 Enter relevant details on UNIFROM                              00:30
15 Check and sign licence documents                                               00:30
16 Send interested parties licence documents and                          00:30
      consider representations
17 Update computer details if necessary, modify,                  00:15   00:15
      check and sign licence documents
18 Serve licence documents on recipients by post                  00:15
Additional
19 Minimum of one compliance inspection during                            02:00
      the period of the license (inc travel)

      Total                                                       02:30   11:00   00:30

Total time = 14 hrs




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Direct Hourly Costs for Officers

                                                              Time                Direct Cost Hourly
                                                                                  rate (inc. oncosts)
Admin                                                         2hrs 30min          £11.40
EHO                                                           11 hrs              £20.56
Head of Environmental Protection                              30 min              £24.97

Total Costs

Admin                                                         £28.50
EHO                                                           £226.16
Head of Environmental Protection                              £12.49

Total (including a 10% contingency fee) = £348.15 for a 5 person HMO

Larger HMOs require 20 minutes extra inspection per household, 20 minutes extra
facilities inspection, 20 minutes extra for floorplan and paper work checking = 1 hr EHO
time plus overheads = £20.56




Proposed HMO License Fees

These have been divided into bands, with the average cost for the band given as the fee.

Bands                                    Description                       Fee
Band A                                   Properties with maximum           £360
                                         permitted occupancy of 6
Band B                                   Properties with maximum           £410
                                         permitted occupancy of
                                         between 7-9 persons
Band C                                   Properties with maximum           £490
                                         permitted occupancy of
                                         between 10-14 persons
Band D                                   Properties with maximum           £550
                                         permitted occupancy of
                                         more than 15 persons




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