Extra officer to deal with rising number of HMO applications in Rugby

York Street.
York Street.

A wave of applications for multi-occupancy homes is expected in Rugby borough, with potentially a six-fold increase in licences.

Rugby Borough Council is set to appoint a new environmental officer to tackle the increasing number of HMO – homes in multiple occupation – applications.

Legislation surrounding HMOs changed earlier this year and around 300 new licence applications are expected.

In a report to the latest full council meeting, Rugby Borough Council’s head of environment and public realm Dan Green explained that the extra workload involved would be too much for the existing officers.

He said: “The new HMOs will have to be identified, have applications processed and be inspected – both before the issue of licences and during the duration of licences.

“It will not be possible to administer the new scheme within existing resources, therefore it is proposed that the income from the licensing scheme (which must be used for the administration of the scheme) is used to fund a permanent Environmental Health Officer (EHO) or specialist Environmental Protection Officer (EPO).”

Under current legislation, HMOs are properties of three or more storeys with private rooms rented to five or more people who form at least two households, sharing toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.

From October, the Government is changing the law so that it applies to single and two-storey properties as well and this is likely to see a massive increase in those seeking a licence.

A HMO licence will also be required for blocks of up to two flats, where one or both flats has more than five people living in them in two or more households.

This is intended to affect units over shops and other commercial premises.

There are 54 HMOs currently registered with Rugby Borough Council but officers believe there could be a six-fold rise with around 300 new applications.

The five-year licences cost £650 and Mr Green explained that the anticipated £195,000 in fees would cover the new officer’s wages for the next five years.

It costs £495 to renew a licence and £900 if officers have to inform a landlord that they need to register an unlicensed HMO.

Councillors voted in favour of appointing the new environmental officer and also to adopt new policies relating to private sector housing.

But there were words of caution from opposition councillors.

Labour’s Cllr Maggie O’Rourke (Benn) said: “I welcome this paper but I want to know how we are going to publicise it and create awareness about it and enforce the rules.”

And Cllr Tim Douglas (Lib Dem Paddox) added: “There are new landlords that the council will need to target and communicate with so we are concerned like other councillors about the engagement.”

Portfolio holder Cllr Lisa Parker (Con Bilton) said there would be a plan to get the message out there adding: “It will mean nothing unless the people of the borough know it is in place.”

Why are licences needed for HMOs?

HMO licencing rules are designed to ensure tenants are not placed at risk or taken advantage of.

HMOs are residential properties where ‘common areas’ exist and are shared by more than one household. Common areas may be as bathrooms and kitchens.
HMO properties may be divided up into self-contained flats, bed-sitting rooms or simple lodgings. They are often known as ‘house shares’.
Large HMOs have required licences for several years – covering properties with five or more people living there.

The changes coming this year will expand the numbers of properties requiring a licence dramatically in some parts of the country.

Local authorities are responsible to granting the licences to landlords of properties affected.

They can also set minimum sizes for bedrooms, and how many people can sleep in them.

Landlords must meet a stricter list of rules than a non-HMO landlord, including fire safety regulations and ensuring there is enough waste storage.

Those who operate without a licence, or who break the rules, can face hefty fines.