village house


5.1.1   Local authorities have various functions under the 2006 Act in relation to the enforcement of the HMO licensing regime, ranging from powers to vary and revoke licences, to powers to impose rent suspension orders in relation to unlicensed HMOs.

5.1.2   To assist in the exercise of these enforcement functions, it is suggested that local authorities should also take active steps to publicise the licensing regime to encourage all owners of HMOs to seek a licence as well as to increase the likelihood of unlicensed HMOs being brought to the authority’s attention (e.g. by occupiers or neighbours). A wide range of methods and sources of information can be used. The most appropriate techniques will depend on the character of the local authority area and the types of HMOs found there. Licensing officers are encouraged to share their experiences with those from other authorities.
  • Most HMO owners will be happy to comply with the law when they know about it. Advertising the regime and making sure that information is readily available from relevant information points is a primary way of reaching this group. Active engagement with HMO owners’ groups or forums can also be helpful.
  • Identifying individual HMOs is key to effective enforcement of the regime. Door-to-door surveys may be useful in urban areas, although they require a high level of resourcing. Various written and on-line sources may be available, including local advertising of rooms for rent, letting websites or approved lists of university accommodation.
  • One of the best sources of information about unlicensed HMOs is people who live in and around or visit HMOs. Enquiries from current or prospective occupiers, complaints from neighbours and intelligence from other departments or partner agencies who visit the property in the course of their activities can all be harnessed to build up a database of possible unlicensed HMOs for further investigation.
  • A local authority has the power under section 186 to serve a notice on occupiers of a property, and any person receiving rent in relation to it (such as agents) to provide information to assist it in determining whether the living accommodation is an HMO. Failure to provide information is an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine. Local authorities should take account of potentially vulnerable occupiers who may fear retaliation from the HMO owner such as eviction or violence, and should carefully consider whether it is proportionate to serve a notice in those circumstances, and whether the information might be sought by an alternative means (e.g. requesting information from neighbours or other departments or partner agencies, or even inviting or requesting the occupier to volunteer information in a safe environment, without resorting to service of a formal notice under section 186).

5.1.3   In taking enforcement action to identify unlicensed HMOs, authorities should also take steps to identify any agent acting in relation to an unlicensed HMO - it is a criminal offence for anyone to act as such by doing anything “which directly permits or facilitates the occupation of that house” as an HMO.  The maximum penalty is the same as for the unlicensed owner, £50,000.

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