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Blog The voice for change is now louder than ever

Back in October 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a response to a technical document that outlined a number of proposed changes to mandatory HMO licensing in an attempt to raise the standards of HMO’s across England. But since this document was published, we have had a snap general election that has pushed back the roll out of the new legislation until spring 2018. As such we are now left in a state of flux with commentators and journalists making their own 'best guesses' as to what the legislation will be and when it will arrive.

Before we go any further, it’s worth giving a quick refresh of what an HMO, or ‘house in multiple occupation’ is.

HMOs are properties that are shared by a group of friends or strangers, the sort of arrangement that’s common among students or that gets advertised on the likes of Spareroom.co.uk or Gumtree.com. In most HMOs the sharers are likely to have their own bedrooms, but they will share amenities like a bathroom or kitchen.

Many HMOs are fine and adequately meet the needs of the tenants who live there. However, some landlords use HMOs to make vast amounts of money by exploiting unaffordable rents and desperate tenants. They offer what seem like relatively low rents, but make up for it by stacking too many tenants into too little space and don’t invest in the maintenance and upkeep of the property. As such, some of the worst conditions and overcrowding in rented housing have historically been in HMOs.

When the government chooses to implement the proposed changes, it will have a knock on effect for all local authorities across England. They will in turn have to process the additional applications or enforce the new standards across an increased number of licensable properties with little or no extra resource.

And that’s the rub. The application process for a HMO licence, be it a Mandatory, Selective or Additional licence is notoriously longwinded and can be quite daunting to a new applicant. With pages of questions to be answered and evidential documentation and certificates to be provided, it’s of no wonder that many applications are returned with either wrong or missing information. The result of this is even more work and a never-ending cycle of admin processing. This must provide little time to focus on raising the overall standards or the prosecution of rogue landlords. The voice for change is now louder than ever!

Moving to a digital cloud based model offers many benefits not only to citizens but also local authorities. The main benefits are; user engagement and satisfaction, improved and accurate data validation, integration with other system software and finally cost reductions in administration. The challenge that local authorities face is putting the systems in place before they incur the headaches that come when not prepared.

Digital cloud based systems can be a fantastic tool, but they need to be procured, vetted, configured, and tested before being released for public consumption and this takes time. So when the inevitable announcement is made by central government, those that have decided to wait until after the decision, will undoubtedly buckle under the weight of the increased numbers of HMOs rather than being able to comfortably account for all of them with forward planning.

Clearly, the tone of this blog is meant to encourage and promote action. It’s estimated that an additional 174,000 properties will be subject to mandatory licensing changes aimed at improving housing conditions. There are options for local authorities to accommodate the expected increases in HMOs and moving from ‘legacy to cloud’ based systems will offer a route to their successful management.

The voice for change is now louder than ever

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