23 April 2014

Fire safety improved in shared houses across targeted city areas



More than 1,500 licences for smaller houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have been issued under Brighton & Hove City Council’s additional licensing scheme with many owners carrying out work to improve fire safety.


The private rented sector, including HMOs, has increased dramatically with an increase of 45% - which represents an extra 10,691 homes - taking the total to 34,081 across the city.


HMO licensing in Brighton & Hove consists of two schemes that operate side by side.


Under national rules all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) of three or more storeys with five or more occupiers must be licensed and this applies across the whole of the city.


On 5 November 2012, B&HCC introduced a scheme to licence smaller HMOs in the Wards of Hanover & Elm Grove; Queens Park; Hollingdean & Stanmer; Moulsecoomb & Bevendean; and St Peter’s & North Laine. The scheme lasts for 5 years.


The scheme was introduced following extensive consultation and evidence that a significant proportion of the smaller HMOs in the five Lewes Road wards were being managed sufficiently ineffectively as to give rise to one or more particular problems either for those occupying the HMOs or for members of the public.


The HMOs covered by this additional licensing scheme are those in the five wards which, while not large enough to be covered under the national licensing criteria, have two or more storeys and three or more occupiers in two or more households.


Moulsecoomb & Bevendean had the most licences issued with 608 as of 9 April 2014.  The figures for the remaining wards were Hanover & Elm Grove 430, St. Peter's & North Laine 304, Hollingdean & Stanmer 169 and Queen's Park 72.

The total number of licences issued is 1,583.


So far, over 1,800 applications have been received from landlords under the additional licensing scheme, with over 1,000 further HMOs licensed across the city under the national scheme. 


Key areas identified for improvements included safety standards and fire safety in many of the smaller HMOs. Special conditions that landlords complied with to gain a licence include 293 fire alarms installed or improved with hundreds of other fire works completed across the five wards.

Cllr Bill Randall, Chair of the Housing Committee, said:

"We’ve had a terrific response to this scheme which is producing safer and better homes for residents in shared housing as well as peace of mind for landlords.

“Research has shown a concentration of smaller houses converting from family homes to HMOs in these five wards. Our licensing regulations have provided protection for tenants in the traditionally larger HMOs for many years and we have built up a good working relationship with landlords. It was only right that we should extend these benefits more widely to others renting privately in smaller HMOs.”

Each property is visited as the first step in the licensing process, and advice is given to the Landlord about any works required to comply with the scheme. This is followed up with a draft and a full licence, with conditions. The conditions of a licence are important to both landlords and tenants concerned.

The council will always work with landlords applying for a licence, ensuring enough time is given to improve standards where necessary. However, it remains a criminal offence not to apply for a licence, with a maximum penalty on conviction of £20,000.


If you have or know of a property in one of the wards and think it may need to be licensed or have any questions, please ring Private Sector Housing on (01273) 293156 or e-mail us on HMOAdditionalLicensing@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

For 30 April 2014 Housing Committee papers see Housing Committee