Contact with occupiers

dancing house

Local authorities are expected to make occupiers aware of the process of HMO licensing and the standards to be expected, and to offer a contact point to raise any concerns. Occupiers in HMOs often have little awareness of their rights, and may have low expectations of standards. At the same time they may be reluctant to express any concerns for fear of harassment or eviction. For this reason it is not appropriate to meet with occupiers and the HMO owner at the same time. It is suggested that trying to contact occupiers in person at the HMO is unlikely to have a high success rate so is unlikely to be a good use of resources.  Equally, sending letters addressed to each occupier (where known) is a better approach than simply leaving leaflets at the property.

4.12.10           In addition, a passive approach may not be sufficient to elicit responses from occupiers dissatisfied with the accommodation or management. A more effective strategy may be to ask occupiers to return a questionnaire asking about key issues, which can help inform whether the HMO owner is a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold a licence. If any problems are identified through this process, the local authority should carefully consider how these are addressed with the HMO owner, with steps being taken to ensure that the HMO owner does not attach any blame to individual occupiers.

4.12.11           All contacts with occupiers must take account of possible barriers to communication such as first languages other than English, learning disabilities or literacy problems. Local authorities might wish to consider working in partnership with equalities and adult literacy groups in their area, who may be able to help both in providing suitable materials, interpreting, advocacy services, and in getting information about HMO licensing to their users, members or communities.

4.12.12           If occupiers express any concerns which require further investigation, they should be invited to discuss them. This discussion should normally be conducted by someone with an awareness of housing issues and the skills to deal with a client who may be distressed or nervous. It is usually best to conduct such discussions away from the HMO. Procedures should also be in place to refer occupiers to other sources of advice if they raise issues which are not directly connected with licensing, such as debt or mental health problems. If the occupier complains of criminal behaviour, either in connection with the management of the HMO or by residents or visitors to the property, the local authority should encourage them to report this to police and consider providing them with appropriate support.

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