1. Executive summary

The Housing Act 2004 came into force in 2006 and changed the way in which Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are defined and regulated and introduced mandatory licensing for properties with three or more storeys with five or more occupants and two or more households. Further changes to the legislation in 2018 removed the number of storeys element meaning that any property with five or more occupants requires a mandatory licence.

In the time since mandatory licensing was introduced the number of licensable HMOs has significantly increased, as has the number of smaller HMOs (that is those with only three or four occupants). However, whereas licensable HMOs will be inspected prior to a licence being issued and any requirements under the associated pieces of legislation will need to be complied with, these smaller HMOs are in general not inspected unless a complaint is received about them or other reason to inspect comes to light. This has resulted in a high number of smaller HMOs and flats known as section 257 HMOs that might not meet acceptable standards.

Many of these smaller HMOs may have maintenance, disrepair and management issues. This is likely to remain unchanged unless a proactive approach is taken to ensure they meet the required standards. By introducing an additional HMO licensing scheme the intention is to improve these types of properties. This will in turn provide a better living environment for their occupants and those that live near to them. It should also reduce the risks and hazards associated with poor housing standards.

The Council’s Vision 2022-2026 sets out that we will be “delivering the right homes in the right places” and that to achieve this, amongst other measures, the council will “ensure the existing housing stock in the district (private sector and council owned) is maintained to a high standard”.

A Full Council motion in 2020 asked officers to look at the quantity and quality of HMOs in wards where there were high concentrations of such properties. This initial research was undertaken on behalf of the council by the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

Following a report detailing the BRE’s findings, the council’s Environment Committee agreed to instigating the statutory consultation process for introducing an additional HMO licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation. This would cover privately rented properties occupied by three or four people making up two or more households sharing basic facilities (bathroom, WC, cooking facilities) and buildings converted into self-contained flats that meet the definition of a section 257 HMO. If designated, the scheme would be introduced in River ward, Littlehampton and Hotham and Marine wards in Bognor Regis.

Introduction of an additional HMO licensing scheme will provide the council with greater confidence that there are adequate safeguards in place to help ensure that persons seeking or placed into this type of accommodation are allocated appropriate, safe and good-standard accommodation.

This consultation document details what defines a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), a background to the legislative framework on additional HMO licensing and how the proposed additional licensing scheme will work as part of Arun’s overall housing strategy. It also provides information on why the council is proposing to implement additional licensing in these three wards. Finally, it details what is expected for properties that would be included in any such scheme in terms of facility and space standards, the licensing process, how an additional HMO licensing scheme will work, and which properties will be affected.

Detailed evidence from the BRE Housing Stock Model Data (Section 12 and Appendix 3 of this consultation document) is used to provide support for our proposal and its consideration that an additional HMO licensing scheme is the most appropriate and effective way to address the issues highlighted and found in these areas.

Although a consultation is a legislative requirement when considering an additional HMO licensing scheme, it is as important to us to understand what our residents, landlords, businesses, visitors, and neighbours think about our proposals to help us achieve a private rented housing market in the district that provides safe and healthy accommodation.