Owners of houses in multiple occupation across B&NES are being urged to check whether they need a licence, after the owner of an unlicensed property was ordered to repay their tenants £34,000.
A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property with three or more people who are not family members living in it and sharing facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen.
All HMO’s across the district with five or more people in two or more households are required to be licenced by Bath & North East Somerset Council. In the city of Bath, all HMO’s need a licence.
Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for Housing, Planning and Economic Development, said: “It’s in a landlord’s interest to register their HMO, as failure to do so can result in a financial penalty.
“Over the past year we’ve investigated a large number of potentially unlicensed HMO’s and have issued seventeen warning letters and one caution.
“If we discover that a landlord is operating an HMO without a licence we have a duty to inform the tenants that they have the right to apply for a Rent Repayment Order.
“Earlier this year this resulted in a landlord from Bath who operated an HMO without a licence for six months, being ordered to repay seven tenants almost £5,000 each.
“The total repayment bill was more than £34,000.”
HMOs are often occupied by more vulnerable members of society who are often on lower incomes.
Licensing of HMOs aims to ensure that the properties meet legal standards and are properly managed to provide greater protection of the health, safety and welfare of people living in them.
Over the past year the council has received 1900 applications for new or renewal licences.