HMO fire safety improved across Brighton
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Health, Local Government
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Brighton & Hove City Council has issued more than 1,500 licences for smaller houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) under its additional licensing scheme, with many owners carrying out work to improve fire safety.
The private rented sector, which includes HMOs, has increased by 45%, representing 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 HMOs of three or more storeys with five or more occupiers must be licensed.
In November 2012, the council introduced a five-year 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 was introduced following extensive consultation and evidence that a significant proportion of the smaller HMOs in the five Lewes Road wards were being managed ineffectively, giving rise to one or more particular problems, either for those occupying the properties 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.
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.”
The council says it 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.