Housing licences improve living conditions in Winchester

Around forty landlords and property managing agents in Winchester have requested an application form for an HMO licence five weeks into the application process. However, Winchester City Council warns that there may be many more properties in the area that need to be licensed.

Landlords with licensable properties who fail to apply before 3 July 2006 may face fines of up to £20,000, a criminal record, and potentially, rent repayment orders.

In the Winchester district, properties of three or more floors, with five or more tenants belonging to two or more households, are required by law to be licensed.
Andrew Nairn, Environmental Health Officer explains, "A number of landlords who require licences for their large properties in Winchester have made enquiries. Winchester City Council is looking forward to further supporting local landlords and answering any queries they may have about the HMO licensing scheme.

"HMOs provide much needed affordable housing, particularly for younger people. However, tenants in larger shared properties are often vulnerable to poor housing conditions. Winchester City Council wants to work with landlords to drive up standards and eliminate poor quality accommodation."

To grant a licence the Council must be satisfied that:
• the proposed licence holder, the landlord or managing agent, are 'fit and proper' people
• properties and tenancies are managed appropriately
• the accommodation meets all minimum standards such as sufficient number of toilets, kitchens and bathrooms for the number of residents and effective fire precaution measures are in place
• licences will be issued with certain conditions attached to ensure all applicable conditions are met during the life of the licence, for example, the requirement for a wash hand basin to be installed in each bedroom.

Properties will be assessed using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which has replaced the old fitness standard test for homes. Private residential landlords should also start to look at their properties in terms of risk assessment.

If an HHSRS assessment reveals health or safety hazards, then the Council has both a duty and powers to ensure that the landlord remove any identified hazards.

Licences for HMOs in Winchester cost £395 for a complete application and are valid for up to five years.

Cllr Tony Coates, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities said' "The Council welcomes this scheme which goes some way to managing the safety of tenants in rented properties. This mandatory scheme is in addition to existing voluntary schemes for the inspection of student accommodation within the City"

For more information on mandatory HMO licensing and to identify whether you have a property that needs licensing, visit www.propertylicence.gov.uk .

To find out more about HHSRS visit www.odpm.gov.uk/hhsrs  

Or visit the Council's web site www.winchester.gov.uk
To apply for a Licence for a property in the district of Winchester City Council call: Private Sector Housing Team on 01962 848 483.