Higher price for non-compliant landlords

Landlords who fail to make licence applications when they should or who fall short with other housing safety issues could be hit in the pocket thanks to a fresh approach to licence fees and enforcement charges.

Published: Monday, 9th March 2020

On Monday 2 March, Cherwell District Council’s executive approved a new licence fee structure for landlords of houses in multiple occupation, known as HMOs. Landlords who are found operating unlicensed HMOs, or who are not complying with the conditions of their current licence, will be charged up to £600 more for a new licence than those who obey the law. 
Non-compliant landlords can expect to pay up to £1,050 for a new licence, whereas compliant landlords can renew a five-year licence from just £450 (£650 for first time applications).
Cllr John Donaldson, Cherwell's lead member for housing, said: “The new fees structure encourages landlords to do the right thing for their tenants. Those who are doing well get rewarded, but anyone who chooses not to comply will pay a higher cost for their HMO licence.”
Licences are needed for all HMOs with five or more residents. Conditions cover safety issues such as annual gas safety certificates and keeping electrical appliances in a safe condition. They can also specify the number of occupiers and any works required to bring the property up to standard.
Cllr John Donaldson added: “The decision is backed up by a thorough review of what the real costs to the taxpayer are of licensing and enforcement activity. But the big picture is that we are working really hard to ensure this important sector of our housing market is high performing and well regulated.” 
Along with the new fee structure, the executive backed a plan to offer advisory visits to landlords thinking of operating an HMO. In return for a fee, council experts will help them get it right first time and avoid falling into the higher fee band. 
There will be added motivation to resolve problems informally, meanwhile, as the administrative fees charged for improvement notices, emergency remedial action and other enforcement measures are increased from £200 to £450.
The licence application fees will be charged in two parts, the first covering the costs of processing the applications and the second covering the costs of running and enforcing the scheme. Discounts for compliant landlords will be applied at the second fee stage.
The new fees structure will go live in April 2020.