LOCAL AUTHORITIES BRACE THEMSELVES FOR 13,000,000 SHEETS OF PAPER

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Local authorities around the UK are bracing themselves to receive nearly 13 million sheets of paperwork.

And they will all have to be checked and processed as part of the new Housing Act’s licensing regulations for rented ‘houses in multiple occupation’.

The storm is brewing because of the unexpected low rate of applications, to date, from the country’s private sector landlords. Nationally only around 2,000 applications are in the system from a potential 400,000 licensable HMO’s – with little more than three weeks to go before the 5 July deadline.

“The returns are much lower than expected and we don’t know the reason for that,” says Chris Town – chairman of the leading the Residential Landlords Association whose members own over 100,000 private rented properties throughout the UK.

“It could be an information issue – but I doubt it. Over the last 12 months we have issued a constant stream of information about the new Housing Act regulations for licensing HMOs. And the government has heavily promoted it to the sector. But it doesn’t yet seem to have had an impact.

“There might be a wait-and-see element with a flood of last minute applications coming as the fear of criminal sanctions and fines kick in.”

‘Houses in multiple occupation’ - three or more-storey properties rented to five or more people in two or more households, typically university and college students, trainee teachers and nurses – must have mandatory licences according to the Housing Act.

But the low response is worrying local authorities. In Chris’ own city of Leeds – where only 149 applications have been received from a potential 8,000 properties – that could mean the City Council receiving 7,750 applications ‘overnight’ – each one 32 pages long – which, he says, “adds up to quite a stack of paper.

“Authorities have to write back and acknowledge each one, then check the applications, and it could be 12 months before the licence is eventually issued. Meanwhile tenants are already asking to see them.

“I can see a very large grey area emerging!”

22/06/2006 00:00

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