The Committee considered this Order at its meeting yesterday, and is publishing information about it in its report this week.
Your Ministry has confirmed that the effect of the Order will be that an estimated 160,000 properties will require a licence for the first time, by the date of 1 October 2018 when the Order comes into force. It will fall to local housing authorities (LHAs) to process the applications for those licences. We have been told by your Ministry that there have been no problems with LHAs processing applications in the past, but we are not persuaded that this significant extension of licensing can be readily achieved in the relatively short period until October.
We would be grateful, therefore, if you could let us know what steps your Ministry has taken to ensure that the requirement for so many additional properties to be licensed by October will be achieved. We would also be interested to know how your Department will monitor the progress of LHAs in meeting this requirement, and what your intentions are for keeping Parliament informed of progress.
It would be helpful to receive your reply by noon on Monday 19 March, so that we can consider it at our next meeting.
14 March 2018
Thank you for your detailed scrutiny of Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 (SI 2018/221). You asked us to clarify the steps my Department has taken to ensure that the extension to mandatory houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing can be implemented from October 2018.
This is not an unexpected requirement for Local Housing Authorities (LHAs), we have for some time been alerting them to these changes. We consulted extensively with LHAs in 2015 and 2016 about the technical changes to the policy and how this could work in practice. There was broad support for the changes we proposed, and LHAs were made aware that we intended to introduce them as soon as practicable. Since then, we have also been working with a local authority officers group, updating them with progress on the regulations and what this means in terms of implementation.
The laying of the regulations some six months ahead of implementation was also designed to ensure that LHAs are fully prepared to put processes in place to implement the extended licensing regime, and to deliver their duty to promote awareness amongst landlords. It will also allow LHAs to issue licenses to landlords who apply during this period. In addition, we will continue to communicate across the wider sector with additional focus on those LHAs that may require more support to implement the policy. We are also working with representatives of landlord associations to make sure that their members who might be affected are fully aware of the upcoming changes.
We are developing guidance to be published in April, five months ahead of the regulations becoming enforceable in October. Our guidance will recommend that LHAs encourage early applications, but ultimately it is down to the authorities themselves to determine how best to make arrangements to handle the extension of scope and consider the phasing of applications.
You asked us how we intend to monitor progress of LHAs in meeting this requirement. We already collect data annually on the number of mandatory licensable HMOs and on how many of those have been issued with a licence. This is through the Department’s Local Housing Authority Statistical returns process. The next collection that will include information about the licences issued in October 2018 and will be published in January 2020; we are committed to reviewing this data with a view to assessing local authorities’ progress.
Once we have concluded this assessment we will consider whether any next steps are required to enable LHAs to meet this requirement. We will write to the House of Lords Scrutiny Committee in the spring of 2020 to update you with the implementation of the policy by LHAs.
19 March 2018