In April 2006 the Housing Act 2004 introduced a mandatory licensing system in respect of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which are three or more storeys in height, that are occupied by five or more persons who share one or more of the basic amenities (kitchen, WC, and/or bathroom). This legislation was introduced to put in place minimum standards to houses within the private sector to safeguard tenants from potential problematic and rogue landlords.
The current HMO licence fee for landlords is £1,150 for a period of up to five years and before a licence is granted, the City Council must be satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person, and that the premises meet certain minimum requirements e.g. a safe means of escape from fire, and that adequate amenities are provided for use by the occupants. Failure to hold a HMO licence is a criminal offence contrary to s.72(1) of the Housing Act 2004 and Birmingham City Council will prosecute where there are breaches of this legislation.
On 28th October at Birmingham Crown Court Mr Muhammad Ali, aged 42, pleaded guilty to failing to obtain HMO licences for two properties in Selly Oak. In sentencing the judge said that the HMO licensing regime was there to ensure that certain minimum standards of safety were met in HMOs and noted that, hazards existed in both properties. As a result the Court fined Mr Ali £6,500 for failing to license the Alton Road and Dawlish Road properties and ordered him to pay prosecution costs of £5,362, together with a victim surcharge of £15.
The properties in Alton Road and Dawlish Road are being rented to a total of twelve students at a total rate of £3,647.50 per calendar month and to over £40,000 per year. The judge also stated that Mr Ali was making a significant return on his investment and, that, “with rich rewards come responsibilities”. This is something that Mr Ali had failed already to take on board following previous prosecutions, also for failing to obtain HMO licences for properties in Croydon Road and Raddlebarn Road. For these he was fined £7,500 and £10,000 respectively.
Importantly the Council has issued over 1700 licences, demonstrating that there are plenty of good landlords in Birmingham and within the Selly Oak area. The HMO Licensing Team will continue to enforce the law where necessary and have had a number of successful prosecutions in the courts. Tenants and landlords who are unsure of the HMO licensing requirements should check the Council web site or telephone the team on 0121 303 4009.