16:31 PM, 24th January 2011, About 11 years ago
Thousands of shared house landlords in Oxford are the first in England to meet strict new selective licensing guidelines as the city council takes on new powers.
The new licensing regime for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) could be the shape of things to come for many other areas as the council cracks down on ‘poorly managed’ rental properties.
The council has one of the highest concentrations of HMOs, mainly to service the city’s universities.
About 600 are already licensed, but the new rules require another 4,000 properties to register as well.
Every landlord faces an HMO inspection by a health and safety team and personal background checks to confirm they are ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence.
Landlords who fail to meet the council’s standards or omits applying for a licence could face prosecution and closure of their letting property.
Joe McManners, Oxford City Council’s board member for housing, said: “‘I am delighted that we have finally got the powers to improve every HMO in Oxford.
High Court may impose planning restrictions on shared homes
‘They have long been recognised as being a particular problem in the city, providing the worst homes and in many cases being poorly managed.
‘The private rented sector is hugely important to the residents of Oxford, not just in terms of providing much needed accommodation, but also with the impact that it can have on local communities and licensing every HMO will help drive up standards for everyone.”
Meanwhile, the council is one of a gang of four councils – including Milton Keynes, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Charnwood Borough Council (Loughborough) – that has forced a High Court judicial review of government HMO policy.
The councils want to force the government to climb down on reversing laws that required all new HMOs to apply for planning permission.
The case will be heard before the end of April.
The law was changed by housing minister Grant Shapps in October after running for a brief period from April 2010.
The councils argue planning controls let them micromanage neighbourhoods beset with problems from HMOs, including too much noise, parking congestion and antisocial behaviour.
The government claims that councils already have significant powers to manage HMOs in their areas without imposing planning restrictions.
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