Couple forced out by housing regulations

thisisoxfordshire: Holly Edmundson and partner Edward Gillespie in Observatory Street Buy this photo » Holly Edmundson and partner Edward Gillespie in Observatory Street

A couple are having to move out of their North Oxford home because of new council rules about rented houses.

Young professional Holly Edmundson, who works for Oxford University Press, lives with her partner Edward Gillespie and a third housemate.

But under new rules that came into force earlier this year, landlords need a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence to let any property which is shared by three or more tenants who are not related to one another.

Ms Edmundson raised the issue with her city councillor James Fry and added: “I currently live in Observatory Street.

“I have been here for three years and would like to stay longer, but in August I have to leave my home and find somewhere else.

“Due to new rules for licensing HMOs, our landlord has taken the decision not to renew our contract and instead rent the house to a family, couple, or single person.”

She added: “The problem is that despite being in our mid-20s and in well paid jobs, it is unfeasible to live without a third person as rent in this area is so high.”

Nationally, HMO licences are now required for houses with three storeys or more, or for houses with four or more tenants sharing.

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In Oxford, the council has gone further and is applying the rule to two-storey houses and those with more than two tenants sharing the accommodation.

The licensing scheme is financed through fees, ranging from £362 for smaller properties to £500+ for larger houses and applies to more than 4,000 properties.

Inspections include safety and condition checks and ensure there is adequate space and facilities for the number of tenants.

Mr Fry told the Oxford Mail: “There may be some unintended consequences here because landlords are deciding not to register their properties.”

Leader of the city council Bob Price added: “We want to impose a good set of standards for the 20,000 people who live in HMOs in Oxford.

“More than 1,000 (HMOs) have gone through already, with landlords happy to make the small changes necessary.”

But Lib Dem councillor Tony Brett, who has studied the issue, said: “It is potentially a very big problem with the number of tenants affected in the high hundreds or low thousands.

“It astounds me that what is actually quite an intelligent administration just doesn’t seem to be able to see the sharing tenants’ point of view on this.”

Letting agent Amy Powell of Breckon and Breckon, who acted for Ms Edmundson’s landlord in Observatory Street, said: “I have sympathy for the council because some HMOs need improving.

“But I think there are unintended consequences for tenants in smaller properties.

“Holly’s landlord, for instance, might want to move into the house some time himself in the future and does not want to make alterations.”

Meanwhile Ms Edmunson, and Mr Gillespie, 25, have found a four-bedroom house to share with another couple. She said it was impossible to find a smaller one because so many landlords were removing them from the market.

She said: “It does seem a waste in a city where space is scarce.”

Mark Crompton Smith of letting agent College and County said: “I’m sad to say Holly’s case is typical.

“I am even hearing of young people quitting their jobs as well as their homes as they are forced out of Oxford and back to their parents’ homes.”

 

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Comments (20)

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7:35pm Fri 27 Jul 12

Lord Palmerstone says...

"The licensing scheme is financed through fees, ranging from £362 for smaller properties to £500+"
Does any reader sometimes think that maybe the horrible Pol Pot was right? If these ghastly creatures in the City Council doing substitutes for real work were forced out into the fields to bring in the harvest, would anyone be any worse off? (except the clerks, and who gives a **** about them?) It would be very "green" to use what one can loosely call manpower instead of combines.
"The licensing scheme is financed through fees, ranging from £362 for smaller properties to £500+" Does any reader sometimes think that maybe the horrible Pol Pot was right? If these ghastly creatures in the City Council doing substitutes for real work were forced out into the fields to bring in the harvest, would anyone be any worse off? (except the clerks, and who gives a **** about them?) It would be very "green" to use what one can loosely call manpower instead of combines. Lord Palmerstone

8:34pm Fri 27 Jul 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted.
Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted. Andrew:Oxford

8:35pm Fri 27 Jul 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted.
Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted. Andrew:Oxford

9:19pm Fri 27 Jul 12

Lord Palmerstone says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted.
Why should these folk have to do that to satisfy an effete mongrel Council that,one can only assume, the silly Hooray Henrys of academia have foisted on a large car manufacturing town (Oxford)?
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted.[/p][/quote]Why should these folk have to do that to satisfy an effete mongrel Council that,one can only assume, the silly Hooray Henrys of academia have foisted on a large car manufacturing town (Oxford)? Lord Palmerstone

7:17am Sat 28 Jul 12

xjohnx says...

Hmmm!

Good law.

One bad side effect?

Does anybody else remember 'Rackmanism"?
Hmmm! Good law. One bad side effect? Does anybody else remember 'Rackmanism"? xjohnx

9:37am Sat 28 Jul 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

Lord Palmerstone wrote:
Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted.
Why should these folk have to do that to satisfy an effete mongrel Council that,one can only assume, the silly Hooray Henrys of academia have foisted on a large car manufacturing town (Oxford)?
Only to make a point.

It's a fairly quick and simple action to undertake and end if necessary.
[quote][p][bold]Lord Palmerstone[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Quick civil partnership of convenience and it's all sorted.[/p][/quote]Why should these folk have to do that to satisfy an effete mongrel Council that,one can only assume, the silly Hooray Henrys of academia have foisted on a large car manufacturing town (Oxford)?[/p][/quote]Only to make a point. It's a fairly quick and simple action to undertake and end if necessary. Andrew:Oxford

2:13pm Sat 28 Jul 12

WitneyGreen says...

Get married. Rent house. Take in lodger for spare room. Sorted.
Get married. Rent house. Take in lodger for spare room. Sorted. WitneyGreen

2:37pm Sat 28 Jul 12

simplicissimus says...

Rachmanism's alive and well on an ill-equipped fibreglass-hulled boat on the canal which a cosy Labour pal lets out to a fellow doley and for which he indirectly gets that man's housing benefit, in rent. Unsure of its legality, which may be borderline, but it seems that quite a few marginals like these get subsidized from other folk's Council Tax, when the taxpayers are poor them/ourselves.
Rachmanism's alive and well on an ill-equipped fibreglass-hulled boat on the canal which a cosy Labour pal lets out to a fellow doley and for which he indirectly gets that man's housing benefit, in rent. Unsure of its legality, which may be borderline, but it seems that quite a few marginals like these get subsidized from other folk's Council Tax, when the taxpayers are poor them/ourselves. simplicissimus

5:13pm Sat 28 Jul 12

Darkforbid says...

Really SIm?

"at the other end, the top ten hauled in almost one third of all income and getting on toward half of wealth (44% to be exact)."

Makes me wonder why the other 90% pay any Tax at all,,, anybody for Revolution?
Really SIm? "at the other end, the top ten hauled in almost one third of all income and getting on toward half of wealth (44% to be exact)." Makes me wonder why the other 90% pay any Tax at all,,, anybody for Revolution? Darkforbid

5:22pm Sat 28 Jul 12

steve1955 says...

I know there has be be rules but a bit of leeway and commonsense might help it all smacks of big brother from as stated Mongrel council officials full of their own self importance now they have potentially made 3 homeless will the council house them?
I know there has be be rules but a bit of leeway and commonsense might help it all smacks of big brother from as stated Mongrel council officials full of their own self importance now they have potentially made 3 homeless will the council house them? steve1955

9:35am Sun 29 Jul 12

the wizard says...

GREED by the council, totally disgusting and un acceptable.

Elsewhere the rule applies to houses with three storeys, here in Oxford its two storeys, elsewhere its four bedrooms, here in Oxford it becomes three bedrooms. Surely its time to up the rates on the colleges and leave the rented accommodation alone. All the council are doing now is making life difficult and persecuting the innocents. Not all houses of multiple occupancy are dwellings for students, what an abomination this council has become. Breathtakingly ignorant and backward, narrow minded and totally out of date and out of touch with modern day Britain, idiots.
GREED by the council, totally disgusting and un acceptable. Elsewhere the rule applies to houses with three storeys, here in Oxford its two storeys, elsewhere its four bedrooms, here in Oxford it becomes three bedrooms. Surely its time to up the rates on the colleges and leave the rented accommodation alone. All the council are doing now is making life difficult and persecuting the innocents. Not all houses of multiple occupancy are dwellings for students, what an abomination this council has become. Breathtakingly ignorant and backward, narrow minded and totally out of date and out of touch with modern day Britain, idiots. the wizard

2:14pm Sun 29 Jul 12

Wacky_A says...

the wizard wrote:
GREED by the council, totally disgusting and un acceptable.

Elsewhere the rule applies to houses with three storeys, here in Oxford its two storeys, elsewhere its four bedrooms, here in Oxford it becomes three bedrooms. Surely its time to up the rates on the colleges and leave the rented accommodation alone. All the council are doing now is making life difficult and persecuting the innocents. Not all houses of multiple occupancy are dwellings for students, what an abomination this council has become. Breathtakingly ignorant and backward, narrow minded and totally out of date and out of touch with modern day Britain, idiots.
Amen to that!
[quote][p][bold]the wizard[/bold] wrote: GREED by the council, totally disgusting and un acceptable. Elsewhere the rule applies to houses with three storeys, here in Oxford its two storeys, elsewhere its four bedrooms, here in Oxford it becomes three bedrooms. Surely its time to up the rates on the colleges and leave the rented accommodation alone. All the council are doing now is making life difficult and persecuting the innocents. Not all houses of multiple occupancy are dwellings for students, what an abomination this council has become. Breathtakingly ignorant and backward, narrow minded and totally out of date and out of touch with modern day Britain, idiots.[/p][/quote]Amen to that! Wacky_A

8:47am Mon 30 Jul 12

alu355 says...

Even better solution, have 3 children and let the council pay your rent too.
Even better solution, have 3 children and let the council pay your rent too. alu355

1:46pm Mon 30 Jul 12

Whitto says...

Shouldn't the headline read "Landlord trying to avoid rules makes couple homeless"?

Didn't the labour majority increase up at the last election, so there must be a massive silent majority out there compared to the same old faces on here trying to attack the council at every chance.
Shouldn't the headline read "Landlord trying to avoid rules makes couple homeless"? Didn't the labour majority increase up at the last election, so there must be a massive silent majority out there compared to the same old faces on here trying to attack the council at every chance. Whitto

8:29am Tue 31 Jul 12

Lady Penelopee says...

A landlord doesn't want to convert his house into an HMO, so instead of breaking the law and letting his tenants stay, he's complying with the rules.

The argument is often the other way round, that it's difficult for families to rent houses in Oxford due to all the HMOs in the area, so at least this gives families a better chance of finding rented accommodation.

(although if I were the landlord, I think I'd pay the money, as keeping a good tenant is worth more!)
A landlord doesn't want to convert his house into an HMO, so instead of breaking the law and letting his tenants stay, he's complying with the rules. The argument is often the other way round, that it's difficult for families to rent houses in Oxford due to all the HMOs in the area, so at least this gives families a better chance of finding rented accommodation. (although if I were the landlord, I think I'd pay the money, as keeping a good tenant is worth more!) Lady Penelopee

12:41pm Tue 31 Jul 12

Whitto says...

Lady Penelopee wrote:
A landlord doesn't want to convert his house into an HMO, so instead of breaking the law and letting his tenants stay, he's complying with the rules. The argument is often the other way round, that it's difficult for families to rent houses in Oxford due to all the HMOs in the area, so at least this gives families a better chance of finding rented accommodation. (although if I were the landlord, I think I'd pay the money, as keeping a good tenant is worth more!)
I think that as soon as the property is let to 3 or more unrelated people it is classed as an HMO so it already was one, rather than converting his house to an HMO.

I've done some work on this at Uni and under the Housing Act 2004 all properties with 3 or more unrelated sharers are classed as HMOs and have to comply with the HMO Managament Regs. What is different in oxford is that all have to be licensed as well.
[quote][p][bold]Lady Penelopee[/bold] wrote: A landlord doesn't want to convert his house into an HMO, so instead of breaking the law and letting his tenants stay, he's complying with the rules. The argument is often the other way round, that it's difficult for families to rent houses in Oxford due to all the HMOs in the area, so at least this gives families a better chance of finding rented accommodation. (although if I were the landlord, I think I'd pay the money, as keeping a good tenant is worth more!)[/p][/quote]I think that as soon as the property is let to 3 or more unrelated people it is classed as an HMO so it already was one, rather than converting his house to an HMO. I've done some work on this at Uni and under the Housing Act 2004 all properties with 3 or more unrelated sharers are classed as HMOs and have to comply with the HMO Managament Regs. What is different in oxford is that all have to be licensed as well. Whitto

1:14pm Tue 31 Jul 12

Captain J says...

It's not just that they have to pay a license fee, landlords also have to improve certain aspects of their properties in order to even get the license, which is extra time and money.

Apparently this whole HMO licensing thing was to force "slum landlords" to improve conditions at their properties. It has utterly failed in this goal as all it has done is given landlords a massive incentive to rent to families or single people instead. Then there's the side effect of it further reducing the amount of properties available to people who can only afford to share.

As a young professional living in an HMO, I'm anticipating that my rent will be climbing drastically over the next couple of years as a result of this completely misguided regulation. There will be less and less properties available to unrelated house sharers, so the prices of those available will skyrocket due to the increased demand.
It's not just that they have to pay a license fee, landlords also have to improve certain aspects of their properties in order to even get the license, which is extra time and money. Apparently this whole HMO licensing thing was to force "slum landlords" to improve conditions at their properties. It has utterly failed in this goal as all it has done is given landlords a massive incentive to rent to families or single people instead. Then there's the side effect of it further reducing the amount of properties available to people who can only afford to share. As a young professional living in an HMO, I'm anticipating that my rent will be climbing drastically over the next couple of years as a result of this completely misguided regulation. There will be less and less properties available to unrelated house sharers, so the prices of those available will skyrocket due to the increased demand. Captain J

9:32pm Tue 31 Jul 12

Lord Palmerstone says...

Darkforbid wrote:
Really SIm?

"at the other end, the top ten hauled in almost one third of all income and getting on toward half of wealth (44% to be exact)."

Makes me wonder why the other 90% pay any Tax at all,,, anybody for Revolution?
Yeah Revolution's great DF. That way 0.3% of the population can have all the cash and drive Zils and kill everyone they don't like. Are you old enough to remember the wonderful housing for the masses in post Revolutionary Russia?
[quote][p][bold]Darkforbid[/bold] wrote: Really SIm? "at the other end, the top ten hauled in almost one third of all income and getting on toward half of wealth (44% to be exact)." Makes me wonder why the other 90% pay any Tax at all,,, anybody for Revolution?[/p][/quote]Yeah Revolution's great DF. That way 0.3% of the population can have all the cash and drive Zils and kill everyone they don't like. Are you old enough to remember the wonderful housing for the masses in post Revolutionary Russia? Lord Palmerstone

1:51pm Fri 3 Aug 12

aaa064 says...

The background to blanket licensing was that some councillors got their ear bent about poor conditions in some parts of Oxford, with litter on the streets, disturbance, poor property maintenance and a consequent impact on property prices too. Of course, there is usually a life safety consequence to the occupants if landlords are not properly maintaining properties -- you may be sceptical about this, but the statistics are clear.

Although all landlords have to comply with the Housing Act and the Fire Safety Order, these laws aren't really enforced until people die. The one exception to this is HMO licensing because properties get inspected. Inspections cost money, ergo the council makes a charge.

So, most councils tend to find that tweaking HMO licensing rules is a very, very blunt instrument for bringing an area out of this sort of decline, because only a small minority of properties are actually under any sort of HMO licensing regime. By introducing blanket HMO licensing, this problem is solved. No doubt others are created, but at least it gives councils a tool to improve a problem area that voters are complaining about.

You might argue that Oxford should have gone for selective licensing instead. This would have been in a specific set of problem zones and would have covered all rented properties. If this had been done, this couple could no doubt have stayed.

It's much too early to say whether the Oxford scheme has worked. The current phase only started in January 2012.
The background to blanket licensing was that some councillors got their ear bent about poor conditions in some parts of Oxford, with litter on the streets, disturbance, poor property maintenance and a consequent impact on property prices too. Of course, there is usually a life safety consequence to the occupants if landlords are not properly maintaining properties -- you may be sceptical about this, but the statistics are clear. Although all landlords have to comply with the Housing Act and the Fire Safety Order, these laws aren't really enforced until people die. The one exception to this is HMO licensing because properties get inspected. Inspections cost money, ergo the council makes a charge. So, most councils tend to find that tweaking HMO licensing rules is a very, very blunt instrument for bringing an area out of this sort of decline, because only a small minority of properties are actually under any sort of HMO licensing regime. By introducing blanket HMO licensing, this problem is solved. No doubt others are created, but at least it gives councils a tool to improve a problem area that voters are complaining about. You might argue that Oxford should have gone for selective licensing instead. This would have been in a specific set of problem zones and would have covered all rented properties. If this had been done, this couple could no doubt have stayed. It's much too early to say whether the Oxford scheme has worked. The current phase only started in January 2012. aaa064

2:00pm Fri 3 Aug 12

Captain J says...

Aaa064, since January I've already had 2 friends who have been forced to move out of their current houseshares because their landlord didn't want to fork out for the new HMO license.

I've been looking at different properties to move in with a few friends over the last few months. Over 50% have refused to rent to sharers, and most of these have stated the HMO license as the reason.

The rent for my current flatshare is due for increase in march. I'm anticipating a massive increase due to the dearth of these kind of properties now available on the market, with a similar demand as always.

The scheme has already created massive problems for young professionals.
Aaa064, since January I've already had 2 friends who have been forced to move out of their current houseshares because their landlord didn't want to fork out for the new HMO license. I've been looking at different properties to move in with a few friends over the last few months. Over 50% have refused to rent to sharers, and most of these have stated the HMO license as the reason. The rent for my current flatshare is due for increase in march. I'm anticipating a massive increase due to the dearth of these kind of properties now available on the market, with a similar demand as always. The scheme has already created massive problems for young professionals. Captain J

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