2,000 student landlords warned over ‘poor’ standards

2,000 student landlords warned over ‘poor’ standards

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2,000 student landlords warned over ‘poor’ standards

More than 2,000 Oxford landlords have had warning letters from the city council about repairs to carry out under the UK’s first blanket HMO licensing scheme.

The city has around 5,000 HMO properties and is at the vanguard of councils cracking down on HMOs.

Although councilors, residents and students back the scheme, landlords and letting agents have voiced issues over ‘petty repairs’ required by the council.

To back their stance, the council has issued some statistics about HMOs in the city as the scheme ended the first 12 months in force.

  • Eight landlords and one letting agent were prosecuted for HMO offences
  • Two cases are awaiting a court hearing
  • 88 properties are ‘under review’ for prosecution
  • 15 undersized letting rooms have been closed to tenants

City board member for housing Joe McManners said: “I think this shows why there is a problem and why it is excellent that we are able to get these houses brought up to a decent standard.

“The fact that there is a lot of work which is being done shows a lot of these homes are not in a fit state.”

Landlords and letting agents in the city protest that the warning letters are not about poor living standards but technical building regulation issues.

The most common demand for repairs call for hard-wired fire detection systems to replace battery alarms and for fire doors between kitchens and living space.

Most of Oxford’s HMOs house students overflowing from the city’s two universities. Both are allowed to let around 3,000 live in off-campus accommodation.

Student landlords pay £362 per year for a licence, which raises revenue of around £1.81 million a year for the council.

The National Landlords Association claims licensing on this scale does not work and will result in fewer rented homes and higher costs for students as landlords pass on the expense of license and maintenance.

Comments

Tony Atkins

6 years ago

This petty behaviour by Oxford City Council is wholly typical: why are they picking on landlords to install hard-wired fire alarms, whilst thousands of private houses don't even have smoke alarms, let alone battery-powered ones? What is the point of installing fire doors, when everyone knows that most tenants simply prop them open because they are so irritating and inconvenient? Who is overseeing and controlling Oxford's self-declared and arbitrary notion of what constitutes "decent" living conditions?

And it won't end here: since Oxford CC can define "decent" using any criteria it likes, the standards for HMO will gradually "improve" to impose compulsory fire doors and an ensuite bathroom in every room, the lining of wooden staircases with fireproof materials, the installation of illuminated fire escape signs everywhere, etc.

And then there will be a change to the Article 4 direction, so that once a house is defined as an HMO, Oxford's planning rules will ban it from reverting to a family house, on the grounds that the council needs to control the local housing mix. Oxford will then have a guaranteed supply of HMO landlords, trapped and unable to sell their properties on the open market, and subject to a never-ending set of "improvements" dreamt up by the council's pettyfrogging bureaucrats.

And the next step after that? Landlords will be told they will only be allowed to renew their HMO license if they charge "affordable" rents and adopt "socially responsible" lettings policies, i.e. because of Oxford's ongoing housing crisis, HMOs must be rented first to LHA benefit claimants selected for them by the Council and at a pre-determined fair rent level. If the landlords refuse to do this, they will lose their HMO license and yet not be able to sell the property to a private buyer because it is still covered by the Article 4 Direction.

If I were renting an HMO in Oxford, I would simply leave the market - get rid of my four or five students or young working people, and rent to couples or families instead - there's plenty of demand, and the reduced rent is amply compensated by getting Oxford City Council off your back.

Paul Barrett

6 years ago

Yep I agree, thin end of the wedge and all that.
Councils behaving like this will find the HMO supply reducing as LL make the pragmatic choices  as you have suggested and instead take normal tenants on.
Forget all these itinerant  singles and students.
They are more trouble than they are worth!
It will cost the council more in the long run as they will have to house their itinerant singles somewhere and there will be only B & B and other short-stay accommodation available which will cost the councils a fortune.
I think the days of multi-let are coming to an end as LL can see which way the wind is blowing and do not wish to be lumbered with an un-sellable and consequently worthless HMO.
They will just sell and buy normal tenanted property types or reconvert their HMO's to normal housing.

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