As has already been reported elsewhere Oxford City Council has become the first local authority in England to take advantage of the previous government’s blanket consent for additional HMO licensing schemes. They have passed a scheme through executive council to licence all HMOs in Oxford.
We have been passed and reviewed the report of the Environmental Health department which the Council have relied on in making the decision. A copy of this report is available here. A number of aspects are questionable.
For example, the proposed scheme is one which involves annual licensing so landlords will have to reapply, and pay for, a new licence every year. The primary rationale is that the current 5-yearly licensing system has meant that the Council has already spent all the license fee money they derived when the scheme came into force and so have no money to staff the scheme going forward. This sounds a little like saying that the rationale for annual licensing is that the Council cannot manage a budget over the course of 5 years.
Another surprising rationale for the scheme is the belief that it will encourage landlords to deal with anti-social behaviour. Given that private landlords have no legal liability for the behaviour of their tenants and almost no powers to do anything about such behaviour it is hard to see what the council expects to achieve in this area.
We believe that this scheme has the potential to be challenged. However, the time line for such a challenge is tight as it must be started in Court within three months of the decision being made, ie. by late October.
Having spoken to counsel we are prepared to discuss the possibility of taking such a challenge forward on a no win, no fee basis if a group of interested landlords wished to come forward.