Milton Keynes Council is working to ensure that the new cities hundreds of HMOs are safe and meet required standards.
Cllr Nigel Long, Cabinet member for Housing, has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire MP, asking him to unify both HMO licensing criteria and planning law so that poorly performing landlords can face criminal prosecution.
Houses in Multiple Occupation are a growing feature of Milton Keynes. In August 2018 Cllr Nigel Long highlighted that there were over 250 HMOs licensed by Milton Keynes Council (273). The Council aimed to extend its licensing scheme to around another 250 HMOs that it was aware of.
However, whilst it is a criminal matter not to register a HMO, it is not a criminal matter to fail to obtain planning permission to convert a property into a HMO.
Cllr Long said: “It is a criminal offence for a landlord not to apply to be licensed. However, whilst Milton Keynes Council requires landlords to get planning permission, it is not a criminal offence if they fail to do so. I believe it would be both consistent and appropriate to require landlords of HMOs to be both registered and to obtain planning permission for any property conversion to an HMO. Failure to do so would leave the owner open to criminal prosecution. That is why I have written to the Secretary of State for Housing to seek a consistent approach across planning and HMO licensing. Both a failure to license a property and the failure to get planning permission should be criminal offences.”
The reason behind the move is to ensure that all new HMOs reach the highest standards. As a minimum all homes should have high quality and safe kitchens, drainage, washing facilities, ventilation, a good standard of heating and adequate floor space per person, as well as all the necessary fire safety provisions and precautions.
Cllr Long concluded: “We want all HMOs to be well managed and of a high standard; so that they can offer decent, safe and affordable housing to people who rely on such private sector housing.”