The goals of licensing programs generally meet some or all of the following criteria;
To protect the public health, safety and general welfare of occupied rental dwellings and the surrounding community. To protect the character and stability of residential areas, To correct and prevent housing conditions that adversely affect or are likely to affect the life, safety, general welfare and health of persons occupying dwellings, To enforce minimum standards To preserve the value of land and buildings To protect the public from increased criminal activity which tends to occur in residential areas which are unstable due to dwellings which are blighted or substandard
TownGown World will explore the growing trend to licensing HMOS, examining different approaches taken in the UK, Canada, and the USA.
Brick by Brick: the State of Student Housing in Scotland 2007 TownGown World Article By:James Alexander, President National Union of Students (Scotland) Jan, 2008
As the representative body of over 85% of university and college students in Scotland, NUS Scotland regularly encounters students living in substandard and dangerous accommodation, while many others report that their landlord behaves in an inappropriate fashion towards them. These student experiences were the impetus behind our Brick by Brick student housing campaign, which recently published the report Brick by Brick: the state of student housing in Scotland 2007.
Hundreds of students across Scotland completed a questionnaire on their housing experiences, uncovering some shocking statistics. One third of students in private accommodation have unfairly lost part or all of a deposit, and one fifth of students feel their landlord has behaved inappropriately towards them. In addition, half of students renting an HMO eligible property do not know if it is properly licensed, and eight per cent of students in private accommodation do not have a fire alarm.
As a result of these findings, NUS Scotland has produced 8 key recommendations for the Scottish Government that would substantially improve the living conditions of students across Scotland. These include calling upon the Scottish Government to implement a mandatory Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme and to introduce an awareness raising exercise among landlords, tenants and future tenants, to ensure that all parties are aware of the law and their duties and rights within it.
The report also focuses on students renting HMO properties, as this is one of the most common types of student rented accommodation. NUS Scotland is concerned that the evidence in the report suggests a significant problem with HMO capping policies. We believe that, if students do not know about HMO licensing they could be renting an illegal HMO. Given the increasingly common practice of HMO capping in sensitive areas, this lack of awareness will enable unscrupulous landlords to rent illegal and unsafe accommodation to students and other unsuspecting tenants. NUS Scotland has called on the Scottish Parliament to look at the practice of HMO capping and to prevent the practice whenever possible.
Performance-Based Landlord Licensing (Gainsville Points System ) Gainsville, Florida, USA
A "landlord point system," which holds landlords in single-family neighborhoods accountable for the actions of their tenants by assessing "points" against a property for every code violation that occurs there. When a property amasses six points, the landlord's license to rent it can be suspended.
Earlier this year, neighborhood activists succeeded in their efforts to strengthen the ordinance by extending the longevity of points from one school year to three years. Points can be assessed for things such as warnings or violations because of noise, trash or cars parked in a yard or other code violations.
The ultimate goal is not to penalize any landlords but to protect the public health, welfare and safety of our neighborhoods. The program is in place to maintain the quietness of neighborhoods so that single-family homeowners can live in their homes without unreasonable interference by their neighbors. (Go to Landlord Points Brochure)
Incentives Needed to convert HMO'S back to Single Family Dwellings?
This research paper examines the economic value of the 'niche' segment within the student housing industry known as student lodging houses and provides information on the cost of providing a licensing program at the municipal level.
It was evident from the research that the industry is in a state of decline due to a number of factors and that this decline could have significant implications for the municipality in the future from both an economic development standpoint, and a healthy neighbourhood perspective.The paper recommends a number of inititives that the City should consider related to lodging houses, including,
incentives to get lodging house owners to convert their lodging houses back to single-detached dwellings,
the establishment of of a lodging house owners liaison committee so that a regular forum for discussion on lodging house issues could be established,
the establishment of a small lodging house 'team' responsible for the implementation of the lodging house program,
amending the lodging house By-law so that additional licenses cannot be obtained at the same address as an existing lodging house if the new license is required for an accessory apartment.
Protecting the interests of Occupants of HMOs.
Licensing of HMOs in the UK Dr.Richard Tyler Jan 2008
In the UK, HMOs are subject to two legislative regimes, both housing legislation and planning legislation. And this legislation is enacted by three national authorities - in England-and-Wales, in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland. (Confusingly, the different regimes and the different authorities adopt differing definitions of HMO.) Licensing of HMOs is concerned with the intrinsic nature of HMOs (rather than their extrinsic impact), with their quality (rather than with their quantity) - therefore it falls within housing legislation (rather than planning).
In the UK, in housing terms, the concept of HMO was introduced by the Housing Act 1985, which identified a HMO as a house occupied by persons who do not form a single household - but the Act did not define 'single household'. The Housing Act 1996 enabled local authorities to register HMOs but it still failed to define what they were. Finally, the Housing Act 2004 provided for licensing of HMOs in England & Wales, and introduced a lengthy definition effectively, any house (or flat) which is the main occupation of three or more people who are not a single household (i.e. family). (There are various qualifications and exceptions.) Only larger HMOs are subject to mandatory licensing, that is, HMOs with three-or-more storeys and also five-or-more occupants. But local authorities can also apply to the government for discretionary additional licensing of other HMOs in designated areas. The Act came into effect in 2006.
There is therefore now a clear (though not identical) definition of HMO in housing legislation in all parts of the UK. All make it clear that the definition includes student houses. And all parts of the UK have a licensing or registration scheme, whose purpose is to protect the interests of occupants of HMOs.
In UK housing legislation, the primary purpose of licensing is to identify HMOs, and its main beneficiaries are intended to be their occupants. It is of limited value to communities which host HMOs - the detrimental impact arises from concentrations of HMOs, when their numbers exceed a tipping-point. Licensing does not, and is not intended to, control numbers of HMOs (all HMOs are eligible for a licence, as long as they meet the requirements).
Nevertheless, HMO licensing is of value to afflicted areas. First of all, licensing enables the numbers of HMOs to be documented (licensing schemes are required to publish a register of licences issued) - thus, in principle, the proportion of HMOs in an area can be reliably measured. And secondly, licensing will help (indirectly) to reduce numbers of HMOs - (a) bad landlords (if they are not 'fit and proper') will be refused licences; (b) in England & Wales, some HMOs will be reduced in size, or landlords will avoid extending them (in order to avoid licensing); and (c) amateur landlords (and student parents) will be discouraged from converting houses to HMOs, by the prospect (and cost) of licensing.
Licensing is no panacea: but it is a contribution to a solution to the problem of HMOs.
Dr Richard Tyler, National HMO Lobby, December 2007
Preventing Neighborhoods from becoming " Shadow Campuses" TownGown World Article By : Councilor Michael Ross Jan, 2008, Boston USA
The new zoning regulation, approved unanimously Wednesday by the Boston Zoning Commission and expected to be signed soon by the mayor, limits to four the number of undergraduate college students who can live together
With zoning we normally think of such important matters of roof height, setbacks, and parking requirements. Such definitions help to define the scale of a street, the makeup of a neighborhood, and what I often refer to as, sensible development. But beyond these standard benchmarks, there are other, equally valuable tools that help to further define the neighborhood.
One of the most important zoning definitions is determining where and how institutional uses, such as college dormitories, can be placed, and where those borders are set to protect neighborhood housing. One such definition has slowly languished on the shelves in the wake of an important lawsuit and in its place has emerged an unscrupulous player. It happened under the best of circumstances. Schools like Northeastern and Suffolk, once tier two and three institutions, have slowly emerged as world class universities, with Northeastern most recently becoming one of the countries Top 100 schools according to U.S. News and World Reports.
While their improvement only bodes well for Boston and the region, what follows in their wake is a zoning nightmare. Specifically, those schools are ill-equipped to house their undergraduates, with Suffolk housing less than 25 percent, and Northeastern near 50. Many other schools in the region have similarly low percentages. The result is a dearth of available on-campus housing, and a race to off-campus units. This housing in neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, Fenway and Mission Hill, which would otherwise be ideal for entry-level families and young professionals, are now being churned into housing factories and shadow campuses by the student-only rental market.
While the late night parties and antics of undergrads are difficult to live with, its the economics itself that is most staggering. Consider a typical two bedroom apartment that until recently was available for $1000 to $1500. Today those same units has been converted into five and six bedroom student-apartments by turning living rooms, large bedrooms and even closets into de facto dormitories. Since on-campus dormitory costs are lucratively pegged at $1000 per student per month, anything below that price becomes a bargain, today that cost is around $750 per student. So, that same unit is now priced at $4500 per month, effectively pricing out any other use but student housing. Ironically it is the student who suffers, given the lack of physical upgrades to the property and the shortage of housing alternatives.
What results is a code-deficient fire-trap earning the industry millions of dollars and leaving abutters with high taxes and lousy neighbors. It is conceivable to see that many of the neighborhoods single family homes will soon be nothing more than Animal House, indeed, this is already occurring.
Last year I filed a change to the zoning code that had the support of both Greater Boston Legal Services and has since passed the Council unanimously. The measure will reduce the allowable number of undergrads living in a unit to four. This change will restore zoning, and more importantly, save our neighborhoods, which are now in danger of becoming shadow campuses.(Go to Councilor Ross Website)
HMO Licensing TownGown World Article By:Nicky Morgan Jan 2008, UK
Charnwood Borough Council operates a mandatory HMO Licensing scheme following the passing of the Housing Act 2004. However, because of the way the legislation is framed, the scheme has its limitations mainly because it only catches HMOs of three or more storeys, with five or more people and shared facilities such as bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities.
Anyone familiar with the housing stock in Loughborough, much of which has been converted into or is being used as accommodation for students at Loughborough University, will realise that this definition does not capture many of our local houses. At the time of its introduction local residents and politicians were keen that the council should go further and extend the licensing scheme.
As a Conservative I am naturally wary of increased and burdensome regulation. However, there is no doubt that as well as many good landlords there are some who show little interest in their properties, particularly their maintenance and general up-keep (which then has a negative effect for neighbours and the local community), apart from collecting rents. Tenants in such properties whether they are students or non-students will, I believe, benefit from licensing schemes which mean that their homes do, for example, have adequate fire and safety protections.
The rental market is an important part of our housing market. Because of high property prices and rising costs, such as ever increasing stamp duty, owning a home is, unfortunately, out of the reach for many people at present. Renting a home is therefore the next logical step for them. I would not want that market to be adversely affected, and landlords to increase rents and other costs, in order to recoup the costs of compliance with a burdensome HMO licensing scheme, to the detriment of those renting.
I would like to see the definition of HMO and the boundaries of the licensing scheme examined again to ensure we are addressing the needs of the right groups of tenants and landlords.
Off Campus Housing Certification Can HEI'S Partner with City Licensing Programs?
Certified Off Campus Housing Program TownGown World Article By:Mark Bonistall, Chairman PEACE OUTside Campus - The Lindsey M. Bonistall Foundation Jan 2008
Blue light emergency phones are everywhere, campus security frequently patrols, bus service is always available and if you need an escort after dark just call. Great if you live on campus. What about the millions of students residing in off campus housing facilities? The standards for safety and security on campus are very different from those in off campus settings.
One only need check college web sites. Off campus housing is a large part of the college experience. In many scenarios the students living in off campus housing greatly outnumber those living on campus. Yet there are no safeguards for this portion of the student population. The tuition is the same, why arent the safety standards?
PEACE OUTside Campus The Lindsey M. Bonistall Foundation is changing this inequity. The Foundation has developed the Certified Off Campus Housing Program. The program is the result of a collaboration of police, fire, safety, landlord and municipal entities. Some of the program criterion crosses over into the municipal codes for fire prevention and building standards. COCH addresses the varying economic factors of the landlord/owners by dividing the program into two segments. The first segment focuses on the one and two family houses while the second part deals with the larger multi-unit complexes. The program is voluntary for landlords. Once a landlord/owner has indicated their willingness to participate, the program guidelines are sent. When the property has complied with the standards established, the landlord/owner requests an inspection. Teams of inspectors with professional backgrounds and training are dispatched and inspect each unit of the property. A formal report listing any deficiencies is submitted to the landlord/owner for corrections if warranted. Once the deficiencies are corrected a follow up inspection is conducted. The property is then presented with a Certification from the Foundation and is listed on the web site as a certified property. The certification is valid for one year and re-inspection is required on an annual basis.
PEACE OUTside Campus provides the teams of inspectors and will coordinate with the local municipal building department for the inspection results and certifications. The college/university is also notified that the property is certified and a request to list the property on the college web site is submitted.
The COCH program is the first step toward safe and secure living environments. Increased security measures do not guarantee an individuals safety. Utilizing the tools provided such as locks and common sense are the difference in whether you become a graduate or a victim. (Go to Website)
HMO HMO stands for "house in multiple occupation". (In Canada HMO's are sometimes referred to as"lodging houses", where lodgers live together in a dwelling unit without the proprietor.) The UK Housing Act (2004) defines HMO as a dwelling (house or flat) occupied by more than two people who do not constitute a single household. This is a complex term to apply.For an in depth discussion on this definition, review the HMO Lobby briefing paper.
Addressing the Problems of Substandard Rental Housing in Seattle TownGown World Article By:Councilmember Nick Licata Jan 2008, USA
The Seattle Council approved legislation at their last meeting in 2007 resolving to study the possibility of initiating a rental housing licensing program. This study will examine substandard rental housing within the Seattle and approaches to address this problem.
There are a number of jurisdictions in Washington State that have rental licensing and inspection programs. The City of Pascos right to regulate this commercial activity was upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court in 2007. Seattle previously had a rental housing program but it was challenged in court and the City suspended it until a clearer direction could be received from the courts.
This recent decision by the highest court in Washington State provides a clear message that establishing a rental housing license program is constitutionally legal. "Pasco Ordinance 3231 was enacted in an attempt to protect tenants and nearby owners from dangerous and unhealthy housing conditions. The inspections contemplated by the ordinance do not amount to state action (that being an intrusion violating rights under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution or Article 1, section 7 of the Washington Constitution), nor does the ordinance require any intrusion not already permitted by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of 1973.
Seattles study will likely include recommendations on establishing a rental housing business license program or other licensing or regulatory requirement as well as include an overview of funding sources for potential programs, program costs, and a method to evaluate the effectiveness of such a program if enacted.
The Seattle Council expects that the study will be completed by March 31, 2008. The Council will then provide the city's Department of Planning and Development direction on what components of the study to pursue.
Editor"s Comments : City Councilmember Nick Licata has had a long history of neighborhood grassroots involvement. Among his many activities, he served as an Officer of the University District Community Council, helping to stop the construction of future high-rises in that community.You can learn more about Nick's work by visiting his home page.
Historically, the relative incapacity of institutional actors (e.g. planners, housing and environmental health officers) to intervene in processes of studentification was tied to a superficial knowledge of the scale and magnitude of (student) HMO in university towns and cities. In part, this lack of understanding was due to the absence of a legislative requirement for recording, monitoring and regulating the geographic distribution of HMO, since there was no legal obligation on private landlords or local authorities to licence HMO. As a result, the (re)production of HMO and the conversion of family homes was allowed to proliferate in unchecked and unregulated ways .
A scenario understood by many communities living near Higher Educational Institutions. Legislative progress has been made in many communities to address health and safety related concerns of unregulated HMO's.
Video Licensing Residential Rental Properties Jan,2008 ,CAN
A public forum about a new student housing bylaw in Oshawa Ontario, Canada. Homeowners seemed pleased with changes. Landlords and students are angry and confused. Video is 2 minutes long. (Go to Video)
Licensing rentals Trends and breaking news in the USA Bob Karrow Feb 2008, USA
If you live in a college town in the United States, rental licensing like politics and religion is one of the topics you steer away from polite company. People who live in and feel strongly about neighborhoods that are converting to student housing from predominately family will be ready to offer their thoughts. Local entrepreneurs who (rightly) see student housing as an investment with potentially high rates of return will be eager to argue their stands. Its a hot button topic.
Ive been following college town news in the US for more than 20 years. Within the last several years rental licensing issues have come up repeatedly in public and student news coverage. Id like to try to present a broader view of the issue (from my perspective at least) in this piece.
First, when discussing licensing rentals, one needs to accept that any ordinances developed to address the topic must apply across the board to all residents in the community. What applies to one should apply to all. Its the American way.
So whats involved? Public safety issues, the number of unrelated occupants allowed to live in a dwelling unit, and the distance between or percentage of rental properties allowed in a specified area have all been addressed to some degree.
After pouring over 300 written submissions and listening to dozens vent their frustration at a public meeting in October, City staff have tweaked a proposed bylaw to regulate student rental housing near the Durham College/UOIT campus The latest draft of the bylaw would:
require landlords to pay an annual licensing fee of $250, with no limit on the number of licenses issued
require landlords to submit a property maintenance plan outlining how things like grass cutting and garbage will me managed, and a parking plan, before obtaining a licence
cap the number of bedrooms at four per house, with none permitted in the basement unless they are at least 50 per cent above grade
require the main floor of each house to be at least 60 per cent common living space
Occupancy Limits and Rental Property Licensing/Registration
College towns most often need to enact some form of occupany limit ordinance for either of two reasons: 1) safety 2) maintaining affordable housing for all community residents. (No [or few] limits on the number of unrelated occupants allowed in a dwelling unit can raise home prices in college towns out of the reach of families and singles/couples, since homes in college towns often sell for ten times the amount of possible yearly rental income.) (go to Collegetown Life )
Safety of Tenants Main Driver of HMO Licensing?
National Student Union(NUS) Scotland Endorsement of the Licensing of HMO'S
"NUS Scotland is firm in its belief that a combination of Landlord registration, the licensing of houses of multiple occupation(HMO's), and landlord accreditation is an appropriate package of tools able to address the problems that rogue and absentee landlords cause communities across Scotland." (An exerpt from NUS Scotland Housing Manifesto launched in May/2007 )
Our vision for the future of student housing recognises that regulation plays a critical role in addressing the vulnerability of student tenants. It values and promotes community and tackles the unjust experiences of thousands of students in Scotland. The experience of having a rogue or absentee landlord is not only distressing for students, but burdens the whole community. This manifesto demonstrates that the answer is not to limit the number of properties for rent in local communities, but to protect and empower the tenants within them.
Guide Book to the Licensing of Lodging Houses Waterloo, Canada The Lodging House Program was established in 1986 when Council approved the licensing of lodging houses. The City of Waterloo has prepared this guide to briefly describe to lodgers, students, landlords, residents and others the Lodging House Licensing Program. The goals of the Lodging House Licensing Program are
to promote the provision of safer and more comfortable lodging houses;
accommodate increased enforcement of regulations pertaining to safety, health, property maintenance and zoning;
allow for the Universities to recommend and for owners to prove that they are offering approved housing;
ensure communications between various civic government agencies and educational institutions;
assist in monitoring of the supply of accommodation for lodgers.
Video Licensing Residential Rental Properties Oct,2007 ,CAN
A meeting of the public with over 500 in attendance discussing a proposed licensing program in the city of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. This area is in a location of a newer HEI, giving the neighborhood a clean slate to develop proper planning. Video is two minutes long. Go to Video