Licensing fees paid by landlords who operate houses in multiple occupation in Cheshire East have been revised, to help ensure better living conditions and management standards.
Previously, the fee for a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence in Cheshire East was set at £575 for a period of up to five years – regardless of how big the HMO was.
That charge has now been replaced by a scale of fees and charges, ranging from £430 for an initial licence for the smaller HMOs, through to £760 for a renewal licence for up to five years for the largest.
The revised fees are in preparation for changes in government legislation, which will come into effect in October 2018 and allow councils to bring HMOs under closer scrutiny.
At the moment, a HMO must be licensed if there are five or more occupants – living in two or more separate households – who are sharing amenities including a kitchen, bathroom or toilet and the property is set out over three or more storeys.
But from 1 October, the three-storey part of the criteria will be removed.
From the same date, councils will also be able to enforce mandatory conditions regulating the size and use of rooms as sleeping accommodation, as well as rules around waste management.
Operating without a licence is a criminal offence and the penalties include an unlimited fine. Other enforcement action for licensing offences includes banning landlords from operating and issuing civil penalties of up to £30,000.
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, said: “Poor housing can impact on a person’s mental and physical health and mandatory licensing will be key in ensuring that landlords provide good quality, safe accommodation that is well managed.
“In Cheshire East, there are an estimated 600-650 HMOs and 51 meet the current definition for a mandatory licence. However, from October, it’s estimated that around 500 will require one.
“To make sure we can respond to the significant increase in HMOs needing a licence and safeguard those living in them, we have strengthened our resources and created additional posts.
“The licence fees and charges have also been reviewed to ensure that the full cost of processing an application, which varies according to the size of the HMO, is passed to the landlord as a valid cost of operating their business.”
As part of the changes, an initial one-year licence period has been put in place where a licence is required for a property or proposed landlord for the first time.
However, as an incentive to landlords and to support the council in managing the transition to the new regulations smoothly, those who submit a complete application by 15 August can receive an initial two-year licence.
Cllr Arnold said: “Unfortunately there are a minority of irresponsible landlords who are providing unsafe and poorly managed accommodation that falls well short of the standards we expect in Cheshire East.
“By putting in place a shorter initial licence period, it will give the council greater control and improved engagement with landlords to help ensure residents are safeguarded and that other issues such as waste management can be correctly addressed.”
For more information about HMO licence fees and charges, or if you are a landlord and wish to make an application, visit: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/hmo