London Region

Hounslow licensing consultation failed to satisfy Government guidance-RLA

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

A licensing consultation which was run by Hounslow Council recently did not satisfy the requirements set out by government guidance, the RLA is warning.

Hounslow Council ran a ten week consultation on plans to extend an additional HMO licensing scheme in the borough. The consultation closed in April.

In the RLA’s response to the consultation, which you can read here, we have raised concerns that as part of the consultation process, the Council did not take reasonable steps to consult people who are likely to be affected by the designation.

This is because a link which should take respondents to the Cabinet report does not exist, and the consultation documents were not freely accessible online for respondents to read.

As such, the RLA argues that during the consultation process, Hounslow Council did not fulfill their legal requirement as set out in official Government guidance when it comes to “taking reasonable steps to consult person who are likely to be affected by the designation”.

This is a requirement that is set out in Government guidance from March 2015, under Section 80 (9) of the Act, and the RLA is now calling on Hounslow Council to relaunch the additional licensing consultation.

What Hounslow Council is proposing

Hounslow Council’s current additional licensing scheme is set to end on 31 May, and in January the council launched the consultation on plans to extend and widen the scheme.

The Council is proposing to introduce borough wide additional licensing, which would extend to all HMOs occupied by three or more people who are not all related, regardless of the number of storeys.

As part of its response to this consultation, the RLA has opposed the proposals and has raised a number of objections.

“Excessively high fees”

Hounslow Council is proposing to charge a licence fee of £1250 for a new application. The RLA is warning that this fee is excessively high, and will only lead to landlords increasing rents in order to cover the cost of the licence. All the while, criminal landlords will ignore the licensing scheme, as they do with other regulations.

The RLA is also urging the council to review the proposed fee structure, because Part A payment for a new application is substantially more than a Part B payment. The focus of staff becomes the processing and issuing of licenses and whether a property is license, instead of improving property conditions.

The RLA has also raised several other concerns with the scheme, including that one of the licence conditions could potentially breach a tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment.

In addition to this, the RLA argues that the council should fully use powers available to them under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 such as civil penalties and rent repayment orders, instead of extending the additional licensing scheme.

Learn more

To learn more about additional HMO licensing, you can read the RLA’s guidance on this here.

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

4 Comments

  • Dear Victoria,

    Great article, and on the spot regarding Hounslow council.

    Along with not satisfying Govt. guidelines and charging an excessive fees, Hounslow council itself seems to be operating more like a rogue landlord trying to force local residents/landlords/homeowners who have lodgers, threatening them with criminal charges unless they apply for HMO license at a substantial cost although knowing very well that the landlord/homeowner is/will then not be in a position to rent whilst sharing their home with a rogue lodger/tenant.

    In contrast to the Govt. encouraging tax breaks under ‘Rent a room’ scheme to reduce homelessness, and provide affordable rents, Hounslow council is doing the opposite.

    Be aware that In Hounslow council’s HMO definition, children/babies are Included in ‘3 or more’ classification of people sharing a house, which will have implications for people being unable to even rent a room. Homeowners/landlords will become vary, and potentially not use ‘Rent a room’ scheme to rent to anyone if they already have 3+ family members, but do have spare vacant rooms.

    If the lodger/tenant falls pregnant whilst sharing the home as a lodger, the landlord/homeowner is expected to have and be compliant with HMO licensing before the baby arrives in the house, or face a criminal charge-even if the lodger/tenant may have told lies before moving in. Sure enough, it is not legal to ask any lodger/tenant during referencing ‘are you expecting, or planning to have a baby during your rental term, or in the next 3/6/12/so on months’.

    Many landlords have already sold, others are selling up HMO’s/even their homes due to rogue lodgers/tenants being supported in Hounslow. They are looking to move to landlord friendly locations elsewhere due to Hounslow council being unfair to the landlords/homeowners who are currently helping lodgers/tenants stay at a fair/low rent.

    This council’s housing team is not landlord friendly or at all helpful, it encourages antisocial behaviour by tenants, re-defines excluded occupiers license holder lodgers-classifying them as tenants, and impeaches on the homeowner-(redefined landlords by the council) rights to quiet enjoyment as well as safety in their own home although these homeowners may be helping a parent/child/ren/person/s off the streets in the landlords home for a peanut rent, but are having to spend £00,000’s in solicitors, court fee as well as lost rent and decision to stop taking in lodgers, or tenants.

    It seems to be one of the worst council’s for many things including for Residential landlords. The council agenda is just to increase revenue from trapping homeowners applying for HMO, and existing HMO owners paying higher fees rather than to increase private rental accommodation to look after the homeless people by encouraging landlords/homeowners to help increase the volume of low rent accommodation under ‘Rent a room’ scheme, or assist these homeowners in becoming new landlords to venture into renting safely in the knowledge that HMO start up, licensing, maintaining, statutory/legal/HSE compliance and annual costs would be reasonable, fair and the council staff will support in evicting rogue lodgers/tenants.

    Here is hoping that RLA response to the consultation will make Hounslow council re-think, repeat it with a longer response period, with correct links & distribute it council wide since generally the local residents (lodgers, tenants, homeowners/landlords) were unaware of this consultation. It was not widely publicised to all local residents-these should be shared with all residents-not just the HMO owners, or those interested in operating one. Thank you.

  • We did not learn about the consultation until after the event. If the council do not rerun the consultation than will RlA threaten to judicial review council?

    • We would need to consider legal opinion regarding both the likelihood of success of any action, and the eventual outcome, on this issue.
      Our main concern, as expressed in our response, was the public availability of information on the proposals. In either case, however the likely outcome of any challenge will simply be to delay the introduction of the scheme, while the council corrects any errors made during the initial consultation.

  • Just seen the LBH committee website and there are only 42 responses to consultation. The overwhelming majority is from owner occupiers. Very few of your own members have responded.
    I do not think LBH gives a damm to your comments , opinions as pressure group. The exercise is not very effective. Hounslow council policies are anti landlord. They are finding every way to double or triple their income from every house owners. LBH is following the Brent plan to find ways to prosecute landlords and further more make more revenue through proceed of crime routes. All this is targeted exercise and certain groups of landlords are being systematically targeted. With least cooperation from LBH HMO team. The HMO and planning teams have joined hands to increase number of prosecutions and not performing their own statutory duties towards vulnerable landlords.

    Legal advice is not easily available to landlords. Council at LBH doesn’t have any training programmes to educate landlords.

    LBH should have sent consultations with council tax papers to and to all landlords. The council’s are very secretive and publish policy is unfair. Outreach plans and procedures are unfair and biased. Possibly this is all to benefit a certain group of businesses or landlords.

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