Landlords turn HMOs into family homes as new licensing laws come in

The Oxford Times: Frank Webster of letting agent Finders Keepers Frank Webster of letting agent Finders Keepers

ALMOST one third of landlords surveyed have changed one or more of their properties into family housing following new licensing rules.

A survey of 30 landlords carried out by Oxford City Council showed nine of those asked said they had reduced the number of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) they had.

Oxford City Council does not believe the scheme has resulted in large numbers of landlords getting out of the rental market, while complaints about noise and rubbish had fallen by nearly 50 per cent.

Compulsory licensing of all HMOs was introduced at the beginning of last year. Landlords with homes of five or more bedrooms or three or more floors have needed a HMO licence since 2011.

It means anyone renting properties to groups of three or more students or professionals must have a licence, undergo regular inspections and pay a fee of at least £362.

The city council value and performance committee meets on Monday to consider a report on the survey.

The report said: “Of the 30 landlords surveyed, 17 owned five or less properties, six owned six to 10 properties and seven owned more than 20.”

The report said 21 out of 29 (72 per cent) had felt some impact, with a further 14 out of 28 (50 per cent) expecting the powers to impact on their future plans to buy or change the use of properties.

So far the council has issued more than 3,000 HMO licences since 2011.

The report added that 20 of the 30 landlords had increased rents since January 2011 and 71 per cent of those said HMO licence fees were a factor.

It said: “A total of 20 out of 29 landlords (69 per cent) had not reduced the number of HMOs they operated, but nine out of 29 (31 per cent) who responded had reduced the number of HMOs in their portfolio.”

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Councillor Ed Turner, the executive member for finance, said: “Clearly some landlords will be unhappy with the scheme, but our view is we need to raise standards of properties and management and we see no evidence of a mass exodus of landlords.

“What we are hearing from residents groups is that it has been a real success.

“Complaints about rubbish, neighbourliness and noise have gone down by nearly half.”

Frank Webster, director of Finders Keepers letting agent, said: “The unintended consequence is there are fewer places for sharers to live because a lot of our clients are saying they don’t want to pay the fee and make the changes and will let to a couple instead.

“It’s costing sharers more, and these are professionals not students, because they have to find one other person to share with, not several.”

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