Agenda item

Discretionary Licensing

Tom Gilchrist

Minutes:

Tom Gilchrist gave an update on Discretionary Licensing as follows:

  • Private Sector housing accounted for 81.5% of the stock in Bristol and Private Rented Sector accounted for 28.9% of all housing in the city;
  • The Council had run three pilot discretionary licensing schemes for the private rented sector in Stapleton Road, Eastville and St George;
  • The scheme would be extended to the central area from July 2019 and a consultation on the additional licensing resulted in 69% of 2746 responses agreeing/strongly agreeing that this would help resolve the issues of poor management and poor conditions in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs);
  • A 2nd consultation sought views on a revised fee structure (which followed a court case in London) and 47% of 257 responses strongly agreed/agreed that the revised fee structure was fair;
  • In addition to the discretionary licensing, there was  mandatory licensing of large HMOs with 5 or more unrelated occupants;
  • There were exemptions to licensing of HMOs such as student accommodation managed by the Accreditation Network UK (ANUK)/Bristol University/University of the West of England;
  • The scheme allowed the local authority to enforce standards relating to room sizes/occupation/heating ventilation/fire standards above the statutory requirements;
  • The object of the scheme was not to make money for the Council instead it was to improve standards and provide some protection for tenants in the private rented sector.

 

The following comments/questions were raised:

 

  • Although raising standards in the private sector was welcomed, there was a concern that it would result in the loss of cheaper low standard housing which could impact on people being made homeless.  PS responded that an increase in the provision of affordable housing was the best way to mitigate this risk;
  • Why was some student accommodation exempt from the scheme?  TG clarified that the only exemptions were big blocks of accommodation that were already well managed and as only 20% of private rented accommodation could be licensed it was important to focus on the worse accommodation;
  • Can the Council set a standard for visual rather than audio fire alarms as there is evidence of deaf people being turned down for accommodation due to fire standards? 

Action: TG undertook to look into this issue and report back to LW.

  • It was important to note that not all HMO schemes were bad and celebrate good schemes.  TG agreed that 80-85% of landlords were good and the Council supported landlords by offering training and support.  He also confirmed that the Council was trying to improve the quality of landlord provision across the city and not just focus on HMOs;
  • There was a new generation of purpose built co-housing that was a positive example of HMOs.  Was there a way for the community led non-profit housing sector to not require a licence for these schemes?  TG responded that there were difficulties in blanket exemptions for charitable organisations as there had been cases of rogue landlords registering as charities, but a case by case approach could be considered for future schemes.
  • What were the sanctions for landlords who don’t apply for a licence or don’t meet the standards?  Could the Council prosecute or confiscate properties?  TG confirmed that there was the “fit and proper person test” that a landlord would need to meet under the licensing legislation, but properties would not be confiscated and instead there was a financial penalty for landlords who did not comply.

 

 

Supporting documents: