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HMO bungles are costing councils thousands

22 April 2014

Slip-ups from misinterpreting house in multiple occupation rules are costing some councils thousands of pounds at a time when they are looking to axe services to meet strict government budget controls.

Worcester City Council has bungled the consultation process for introducing a ban on landlords opening new shared houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city.

The problem is believed to involve the processing of answers in the questionnaire completed as part of the consultation.

The cost of the consultation is not known – although a council spokesman said it’s unlikely to be a large amount as most of the work, including drafting the questionnaire is carried out in-house.

“I want to apologise to everyone who completed the original consultation online for the inconvenience that this re-run will cause," said David Blake, Service Manager for Regeneration and Business Engagement.

Technical issue

"Unfortunately we discovered a possible technical issue which meant the results of the previous consultation may have been unreliable.

"We felt the only fair course of action was to re-run the entire consultation.

“This does, of course, give a further opportunity for the people of Worcester to make their views known on this important subject.”

Take part in Worcester City Council’s HMO consultation by clicking this link. The consultation runs until Monday, May 12, 2014.

Meanwhile, Newcastle City Council may have to refund at least £750,000 in landlord licence fees after a High Court test case involving Bristol City Council wrongly classifying maisonettes as HMOs.

HMO licence refunds

The ruling did not directly involve the council but is binding on all councils in England.

The judge ruled a maisonette on the two upper floors of a building that was accessed by an outside stairway was not an HMO because the living area was only over two floors and not three – which many types of council considered made similar properties HMOs that needed a mandatory licence.

Up to 700 rented homes in Newcastle are thought to be affected, with landlords paying five-year licence fees of £1,100 per home as the decision would take any home with four or less tenants outside the HMO licensing system.

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “The case deemed that a particular three storey property in Bristol was not a licensable house of multiple occupation. We are obtaining legal advice in respect of the position of some licensed properties in Newcastle and whether they are affected by the Bristol decision.”