Landlords of thousands of Preston properties could face unlimited fines after failing to apply for licences to house their tenants in multiple occupancy homes
Up to 4,000 properties across the city are now thought to require a HMO (home of multiple occupancy) licence under a recent law change - but less than 200 accommodation owners have applied to Preston City Council for the required licence.
Irresponsible property owners have been warned they face unlimited fines - or a £30,000 civil penalty notice per offence - if they fail to get the correct permissions for licensable HMOs and could even be banned from renting out properties if they repeatedly offend.
Preston Council says it is trying to work with landlords first, before resorting to their enforcement powers.
Coun Peter Moss, cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “Since the amendments in HMO licence legislation in October 2018, the housing standards team has worked tirelessly to identify and contact landlords this change applies to.
“Many properties with multiple occupancy will not have previously required a licence and it’s this group we’re trying to reach with our message.
“We thank those already complying with the new legislation, but rest assured that the team are using a range of methods to approach those that are yet to apply for a licence.
"We’d encourage HMO landlords in Preston to visit our website, read about the changes and apply as soon as possible. We’d prefer to work with landlords, rather than use the enforcement powers we have available.”
More than a quarter of the city's homes have become rented - with hundreds of HMOs among them.
Before the law change came in October, there were 114 licensed HMOs in Preston - larger properties over three storeys high with five or more unrelated tenants and shared facilities.
Many other homeowners had taken advantage of 2010 legislation which allowed people to change their three bedroomed homes into homes of multiple occupancy without requiring permission.
But since October, the law has required a licence for any entire house, bungalow, flat or other accommodation which is let to more than four unrelated occupiers, who form two or more households and who share a basic amenity.
It costs landlords around £500 - made up of a £150 fee and £350 towards ongoing monitoring and enforcement.
The new laws don't require the council to tackle crime at HMOs - it is strictly to do with the quality of the accommodation.
However it introduces an onus on landlords to take "reasonable and and practicable steps" to prevent or reduce anti social behaviour by tenants or visitors.