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Compulsory HMO register to regulate Southampton landlords
ROGUE landlords in Southampton are to be targeted in a new compulsory licensing system for shared homes.
Labour council leaders want the landlords of 6,500 so-called houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city to sign up to a new register to tackle cases of unsafe properties, poor management and anti-social behaviour.
However landlords last night warned rents would go up, the poor would be hit hardest and homelessness would rise.
The council said while there are many good landlords some had “significant problems”.
Landlords would have to pay £500 for a five-year licence for each property shared by three or more unrelated people.
They would be subjected to a “fit and proper person” test as well as property checks by council officers.
Breaches of licence conditions around antisocial behaviour, waste in gardens and lettings signs, could lead to prosecutions, or in serious cases see the council take over the management of a property.
The council expects to hire up to 15 new staff to run the “self-financing” scheme, which could bring in more than £3m over five years. It would be fully implemented by 2017.
Unjustified Roger Bell from the Southern Landlords Association said the £500 fee was “totally unjustified” and the poor would be “kicked in the teeth” by the scheme.
“The cost will be passed onto those least able to pay it. These are people due to force of circumstance who are forced to live in HMOs,” he said.
He said the “unintended consequence” would be rents going up and more homelessness in the city.
“We will be creating a cardboard city in Southampton because HMOs will be so difficult to achieve. The fact that Labour is pushing it through is an absolute travesty.”
Lorraine Barter from the Polygon campaign group Residents Action said: “It’s a good idea in principle but unless we’ve got access to a public register to get hold of property barons it’s not going to stop longterm residents fleeing HMO ghettos in the city. It should be £5,000 to pay for the extra enforcement.”
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Warwick Payne said: “Good landlords have nothing to fear with this scheme and will gain from the landlord sector having a better reputation in the city and aiming for higher standards across the board.
Rule “The aim is to improve neighbourhoods for all residents and we want to consult as widely as possible and take all views into account.”
An existing HMO licensing scheme covering houses of three storeys or more, shared by five or more unrelated people, has 392 properties registered in Southampton. Licences cost from £75.
The council has already implemented a new rule that means planning permission is required for all new HMOs in the city.
A 12-week consultation on the new scheme will be launched on September 3. It will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday next week.