Further to our recent posts on the subject of additional HMO licensing in Oxford the Executive Board and the Full Council met today to reconsider the proposed HMO licensing scheme.
A new report was placed before the Board which made alternative recommendations as regards the additional HMO licensing scheme. We are not currently sure as to whether this report was approved but it is likely that it was.
In short, the Council is proposing to withdraw the original HMO licensing designation it made in July and to make 2 new licensing designations. The first of these will come into force on 24 January 2011 and will require licensing of three storey properties containing three or more occupiers and all two storey properties containing five or more occupiers. The second designation will come into force on 30 January 2012 and will require licensing of all other HMOs as well as some s257 HMOs (properties converted into flats not in accordance with the Building Regulation 1991). While the Council denies that it ever intended to phase in licensing the report asserts that the new designations will avoid ‘confusion and uncertainty’.
The report recognises the need to ensure that the fees charged for the scheme are not more than those required to run the scheme and that any extra must be returned by future fee reductions.
The report also accepts that it is not lawful to impose blanket licensing conditions on all properties and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unacceptable. Therefore the original plans to impose standard licence conditions on all properties are to be scrapped.
It is interesting to note that there is also now a recognition that the licensing scheme has been promoted as solving all HMO-related problems and that it simply cannot achieve the high level of expectation that has now been built up. The Council has not made clear how it intends to deal with this issue.
While some Oxford landlords will, no doubt, be disappointed that the licensing process will be going ahead the changes give far more time for landlords to make changes in the manner in which they let their properties if they wish to avoid licensing and also reduce some of the more onerous burdens on landlords who do elect to licence their properties. PainSmith Solicitors are pleased that Oxford has recognised the limitations of HMO licensing and the limitations on its powers and hope that other local authorities will give very serious consideration to the appropriateness of these schemes and their method of implementation.