One of the stories which stood out for me when I looked through my various feeds and Google news headlines this morning was this one about an application for additional licensing in Cathay ward in Cardiff, Wales.
As regular readers of this blog will remember, mandatory licensing for the larger HMO properties was introduced by the 2004 Housing Act which came into force (in this respect) in 2006. As the act introduced many major changes, not just licensing, it has not surprisingly taken local authorities some time to get to grips with the basic licensing requirements. However many, having done this, are now considering extending their reach, including it seems, Cardiff Council.
Cathay ward is a suburb in the North of Cardiff. It is a traditional area with a lot of victorian type housing, and very densely populated. It also suffers from ‘studentification’, as it is close to both Cardiff University and the University Hospital of Wales.
Althouth the Council recognise that many of the student landlords in the area are responsible and provide decent accommodation, many others do not. The problems it seems are serious and the Council have decided that the best way to tackle them is to introduce mandatory licensing for all HMOs in the area.
Cardiff Council have produced a rather nice pdf consultation document which can be downloaded from here. From this it seems that the main problems are:
- Lack of proper fire precautions and safe escape routes
- Poor standards with inadequate amenities such as no proper heating
- Tatty exteriors and gardens, with too many ‘to let’ boards
- Problems with rubbish and fly tipping on the streets
- Crime issues (student properties being targets for burglars)
Licensing would help with all of these, as properties will have to be in a proper condition and the landlord or manager must be a ‘fit and proper person’, before the license will be granted.
The move has been welcomed by the Students Union who say
“We are 100% behind the consultation. It’s probably one of the biggest problems students find that we continue to deal with. It ranges from damp, poor quality houses, houses not being finished when tenants move in, not enough security with old doors and windows, making them easy to break into
The licensing scheme looks into fitness of character to rent a property. Checks are done on the landlord before awarding a licence. It will go a long way to solving students’ problems.”
Needless to say, the Chairman of the local Landlords Forum is less enthusiastic, saying “The local authority has more than adequate powers. It doesn’t need anymore. It has plenty in its armoury to find the bad landlords.”
Maybe the proposed license fee of £500-600 has something to do with landlords lack of enthusiasm.
It will be interesting to see how the proposals work out in practice. The consultation ends on 15 December, so if you are from Cardiff and have strong views on this, now is the time to tell the Council about them. It is important that the Council gets the process right, otherwise HMO prosecutions could be challenged in the future as discussed here.
If you are from Cardiff and have any views on this, feel free to post a comment below. Also if you are know of any similar initiatives to tackle ‘studentification’ in other cities.