Controversy over Oxford’s plans to regulate multiple occupancy properties

August 6, 2012

Landlords Insurance

News from the BBC* indicates that yet again local authority plans to try and regulate the letting marketplace are proving controversial.

In this case, the local authorities in Oxford appear to be determined to try to limit the total number of multiple occupancy premises that exist in any given area of the city.

The specific case in question appears to be properties defined as being HMOs or houses in multiple occupation.  The plan apparently is to require any property that is being rented by more than three unrelated individuals, to obtain a £470 licence and planning permission.  Only one such property will be allowed out of every five within any 100 metre stretch of occupation.

Some members of various landlords associations are pointing out that the logic behind this appears to be best described as unclear.

The local council are saying publically that this forms part of the solution towards achieving higher standards of property safety and at the same time a better balance of property types in a given area, though some landlords might suspect there is also a revenue raising objective.

The stated reasoning appears odd, particularly in a city such as Oxford.

As a world-renowned university town with a very high student and academia-related population, there will inevitably be a high demand for rented and shared accommodation of all forms.  It is not immediately apparent how, given this fundamental demographic of the city, it can be sensible to attempt to restrict the ratio of multiple occupied properties to other types based upon presumably some arbitrary ratio.

The report indicates that approximately 20% of Oxford’s population currently live in HMO type property.  Yet what is not clear is why this is perceived to be a problem?

The council appear to be seeing this also as part of the solution relating to rogue landlords and unsafe properties but as a landlord association spokesperson has pointed out, the relationship between the problem and proposed solution is far from clear.  It may simply be far more affective to have a landlord licensing system which is then policed.

Already the administrative overheads on landlords are high.  Various forms of regulation and even the annual landlords insurance review all take time and effort.  Adding another layer of cost and bureaucracy on top, coupled with some form of artificial cap being placed on the number of rented properties in a given area, might be a bridge too far for some.

Many landlords will be watching developments with interest.




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