New licensing laws in Preston could affect thousands more landlords. Up to 4,000 more properties now fall under the umbrella of Preston City Council’s HMO licensing laws. If landlords of these properties fail to apply for an HMO licence, they face unlimited fines. They could also be banned from operating rental properties in the future.
Preston City Council housing department say as few as 150 landlords affected by the new licensing laws have applied for an HMO licence to operate, which is significantly lower than expected.
New Rules for Landlords
Preston has hundreds of houses in multiple occupation. It’s often a more affordable way for locals to find accommodation. In 2010, a law was passed that allowed landlords to convert a three-bed property into an HMO, without applying for planning permission. Lots of landlords took advantage of this, recognising the rising demand for shared accommodation. Under the old rules, only landlords with three-story properties containing 5+ unrelated tenants needed to apply for an HMO licence.
Under the new rules, any property containing 4+ unrelated tenants who share amenities and are two or more households is classed as an HMO, irrespective of how large it is. This pushes a lot more landlords into HMO territory, many of them running student houses.
It is likely that a significant number of long-term landlords are unaware of the recent licence changes and have no idea they need to apply for an HMO licence. Licences cost approximately £500, which includes a fee plus money that goes towards ongoing enforcement and monitoring of HMOs in the city.
The HMO Landscape is Changing
Housing experts say Preston’s HMO landscape has changed in recent years. Previously, many HMOs were occupied by 4-6 students, but with purpose-built student accommodation blocks popping up, HMOs are now more likely to be occupied by low-income tenants with complex needs. This is, in part, why anti-social behaviour is on the rise.
“Increasingly these sorts of properties are becoming properties of people who are extremely vulnerable, have got very chaotic lifestyles and multiple needs which could be around drugs alcohol and mental health issues,” says Preston’s Environmental Health team.
Managing Anti-Social Behaviour
It is hoped that increased regulation in the HMO sector will persuade landlords to take reasonable steps to manage anti-social behaviour in multiple occupancy properties. This will, in turn, make Preston a nicer place to live for local residents.