Landlords of certain houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) need to apply to license their property.
Mandatory Licensing applies to HMOs which are three or more storeys high (habitable) and have five or more occupiers who do not form a single household, and this applies across the whole of Swansea.
Additional licensing is when a council can impose a license on types of HMOs for which licensing is not mandatory.
Historically in Swansea, the Additional HMO Licensing Scheme 2016 only applied to the Castle and Uplands wards, where all HMOs with three or more occupiers, who do not form a single household, irrespective number of storeys, must be licensed. This includes HMOs that are excluded from the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.
Traditionally, the St Thomas ward has fallen under the mandatory HMO licensing, however from 15th February 2021, it will now fall under the new Additional HMO licensing Scheme 2021. This develops on the existing mandatory licensing for larger properties and means that all houses in multiple occupation, where 3 or more people from 2 or more households, live together in rented accommodation in the St Thomas Ward, must be licensed, along with the Castle and Uplands wards.
So, what is the reason behind the change of HMO licensing in the St Thomas Ward? And why now?
Swansea 4 Students attribute this to the development of Educational facilities in SA1 which saw Swansea Universities Bay Campus built in 2015, followed by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Waterfront development built in 2018.
These developments have resulted in a shifting of interest for student HMOs in this Ward by both students due to its proximity to the new campuses, and investors due to properties lower purchase prices. The demand has led to a surge in the volume of new HMOs within the ward, influencing the local demographic, community, and housing profile.
The increasing HMO presence had mixed feedback within the St Thomas Ward community with many residents opting against the influx of HMOs, hoping special circumstances could be applied to the granting of new HMO Licenses.
This undoubtedly had a major part to play in the implementation of the Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG), to ensure any proposed HMOs in the St Thomas Ward do not exceed more than 10% of all residential properties within a 50-metre radius. You can read more on the SPG here; https://www.swansea4students.com/news/swansea-shackle-the-hmo-sector.html.
Since the St Thomas Ward fell under the Mandatory HMO Licencing, many houses that were by definition an HMO, but didn’t have 5 or more occupiers, across three or more storeys, didn’t require licensing. This coupled with the fact that prior to February 2016, no planning was required to convert a C3 (dwelling house) to C4 (HMO), resulted in many HMO’s falling under the council’s radar, with the council unable to accurately establish what percentage of properties in the St Thomas Ward are HMOs, leaving them unable to effectively enforce SPG across the Ward, and ensure HMO’s are restricted to 10%.
The council now hope with the Additional HMO Licensing enrolment they will be able to effectively manage the growth of HMO’s in the ward in line with the SPG, ensuring all HMO properties comply with the minimum legal standards for means of escape in case of fire and amenities, safeguarding tenant’s safety and living standards.
A landlord’s failure to license their HMO is classed as a criminal offence and comes with some considerable penalties. Not only can the owner be prosecuted but can be fined up to £20,000. And it gets worse, where owners who have fallen foul and have been prosecuted, tenants can also compound the misery and claim back any rent they have paid the landlord whilst the property was not licensed. A pretty expensive mistake to make, so landlords who now find their property in the St Thomas ward falls under additional HMO licensing must apply for a license by submitting an HMO application before 31st March 2021.
The implementation of the Additional HMO Licensing Scheme 2021, will also see new rules for licences issued from 15th February 2021 for all three wards, which include:
A - A limit on the length of a licence where planning permission is pending.
B - Changes to licence conditions covering external appearance of properties, minimum energy efficiency standards, initial provision of refuse and recycling bags for new tenants and the introduction of a requirement for carbon monoxide alarms in living accommodation with appliances that burn solid fuel, mains gas or LPG fuel.
The changes outlined above do not apply to pre-existing HMO licences in Swansea, so if you currently hold an HMO licence there will be no changes for that licence until you apply for, or have a licence issued to you after 15 February 2021.