Draft House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licensing Policy and Charging Structure
The Service Manager (Housing Options) presented the Draft House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licensing Policy and Charging Structure report via a presentation to the Committee. The presentation can be viewed via the following link(Public Pack)Statutory and Non Statutory Fees Presentation Supplementary Agenda Supplement for Housing Services Cabinet Committee, 14/11/2022 19:30
The purpose of this report was to provide Housing Services Cabinet Committee with an opportunity to make comments on the expanded Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licencing Policy. In addition, the report also provided the Housing Services Cabinet Committee with the updated fees matrix for Private Sector Housing enforcement activity, to ensure a consistent and transparent approach to charging fees for both statutory and non-statutory inspections, that will form part of the Council’s annual review of fees and charges.
It was recommended for Members to discuss and provide feedback on the HMO Licencing Policy prior to being ratified by the Cabinet Member for Housing Services.
The Service Manager (Housing Options) gave the Committee a background on the Private Sector Housing Team, outlining their role to support and advise privately renting tenants, homeowners and private landlords, with their primary aim to work towards safe and well-maintained accommodation. The Committee were informed that the Private Housing Team also administered Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs), licenced certain Houses in Multiple Occupation, Caravan sites and would soon be managing empty homes within the borough.
The Service Manager (Housing Options) updated members that currently there was not a dedicated policy for HMO Licencing and the current HMO licence fee structure within gravesham had remained the same for over 5 years.
The Service Manager (Housing Options) drew members attention to the proposed new fee structure detailed on page 11 of the report. It was proposed that there would be different fees depending on the type of application, that would be split in to two parts, Part A and Part B payments. The current fee for an HMO Licence was £540. With the new proposed scheme there would be an increased fee of £703.33 (made up of the two-part payment) for 2022/23. It was stressed that fees were not for profit and any income made through charging would put into the Council’s General Fund. Members were informed that Section 49 of the Housing Act 2004, enabled local authorities to make such reasonable charge as they considered appropriate as a means of recovering certain administrative and other expenses incurred by them. By introducing a charging matrix this would support service delivery.
The Chair commended the report and introduced Gravesham’s new Private Sector Housing Manager to the Committee.
The Committee considered the report and raised the following:
- Members raised a small administrative discrepancy between the report and presentation regarding the proposed new HMO license fee. It was confirmed that the fee was £703.33 not £703.00 and this would be corrected on the report.
- Reference was made to the Mandatory Licence minimum requirements outlined on page 27 of the report and why there was no mention of EPC certificates and carbon monoxide detectors. The Private Sector Housing Manager advised that an EPC certificate would not be required for an HMO as an EPC was a requirement for an entire dwelling not for a room in an HMO. It was also confirmed that carbon monoxide detectors fell under the fire safety section of mandatory minimum requirements.
- Members referred to the Minimal Requirements on page 27 and mentioned that it would be useful to know what size single and double occupancy rooms should be and also the number of WCs and kitchens to occupant ratio. The Private Sector Housing Manager advised that the relevant housing legislation did not run parallel with that of planning and that the department was working on amenity standards and better guidance for Gravesham, as the current format was not robust. Members were advised that this would be published in due course.
- The Committee questioned why the proposed renewal HMO licence fee was only £5.40 more expensive than the current renewal HMO licence fee, which had been set over 5 years ago. The Director (Housing) notified Members that when setting the fees, a matrix was followed to ensure fees were correct based on officer time. The Committee were also informed that applications were much quicker and therefore was less administration involved than 5 years ago and so in line with the matrix, there was only a minimal permitted increase.
- Members asked how the Council would encourage tenants to make contact if they had issues with a landlord and how this would be promoted going forward. The Director (Housing) advised there was an online form on the GBC website to report a landlord. This was not something that was currently being promoted but would be in the future via the Council’s Communications team.
- The Committee asked what authority Gravesham had to undertake random checks on HMOs to ensure standards are being met. The Director (Housing) confirmed that the team were currently investigating reported issues with licenced premises and due to the current challenging workload/lack of resources, random visits were not something that they were able to do currently. However, since the restructure of the private housing team, there would be a much more proactive approach moving forward.
- Members observed that more enforcement of licence breeches would be welcomed. Reference was made to the cost of enforcement charges and whether this element was considered in the costing matrix when setting the proposed fees and could this therefore be increased. The Director (Housing) acknowledged the importance of this, but informed Members that the Private Housing team had been through a great deal of change laying the foundations for a better future and so it was not right time to do this at present. This would be an increase to consider next year when the structure was in place to enforce.
The Committee noted the report and accompanying policy.
- Housing Services Cabinet Committee Report - Standalone HMO Licencing Policy, item 55. PDF 317 KB
- Appendix 1 - Draft HMO Licencing Policy, item 55. PDF 317 KB
- Fees Presentation Appendix 4, item 55. PDF 1 MB