HMO licensing was introduced by the Housing Act 2004. There are 2 types of HMO licensing, Mandatory HMO licensing for those HMOs occupied by 5 or more persons, and Additional HMO licensing. 

HMOs are a major concern in Oxford. Oxford has one of the highest number of HMOs in England and Wales. Only the large metropolitan and unitary authorities and some London Boroughs contain more. They form an unusually high percentage of houses in the city. An estimated 1 in 5 of the resident population live in an HMO, with the trend over many years being for the HMO stock to grow steadily within the City. High demand for properties means that some landlords can offer lower quality properties but still be confident of finding tenants.

Impact of HMOs in neighbourhoods and communities

HMOs can negatively affect the neighbourhoods and communities, due to issues with rubbish and anti-social behaviour; problems which are aggravated by poor management of HMO properties. High densities of HMOs can also change the nature of an area and result in reduced community cohesion. The Council continue to receive around 1100 service requests/complaints relating to HMOs each year and since the commencement of the previous HMO licensing scheme in 2016, have investigated over 2460 cases where it was suspected that a property was a HMO, with over 54 financial penalties being served since 2017, for the offence of operating a HMO without a licence

Since 2011, the city has operated a citywide HMO licensing scheme, the first scheme was renewed in 2016.for a further 5 years The 2016 scheme lapsed on 24 January 2021 and due to the COVID -19 pandemic the Council were not able to re-designate a new scheme until March 2021. This scheme will start on 10th June 2021 for a further 5 years. 

Aims of HMO Licensing

All types of HMO in Oxford need licences. This is different to most other parts of England, and is due to the uniquely high HMO concentrations and issues in Oxford. The definitions apply in Oxford irrespective of the number of storeys in a property. Planning permission is also required and is a separate legal requirement from licensing. You must have both to operate an HMO legally.

Licensing is intended to ensure that:

  • the landlord of an HMO is a fit and proper person (or employs a manager who is)
  • each HMO is suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence (overcrowding is eliminated)
  • the standard of management of the HMO is acceptable
  • vulnerable tenants are protected
  • high-risk HMOs can be identified and targeted for improvement

Licensing of HMOs aims to:

  • protect the health, safety and welfare of all occupiers
  • help integrate HMOs into neighbourhoods
  • help in the reduction of anti-social behaviour
  • promote environmental goals
  • Improve the quality of the HMO housing rental stock

Previous HMO Licensing Schemes

Additional HMO licensing Scheme 2011 - On 18 October 2010 the Council designated the whole city subject to Additional Licensing for a period of five years. The designations commenced over two years, with Phase 1 (larger HMOs) starting on 24 January 2011 and Phase 2 (all other HMO types) starting 31 January 2012.

Additional HMO licensing Scheme 2016 The City Executive Board (now Cabinet), on the 15 October 2015, designated all HMOs in the city subject to Additional Licensing for a further five years. The new designations commenced on the 25 January 2016 and 31 January 2017 and ceased on the 24 January 2021.The City Executive Board Agenda, Minutes and all supporting documents to the 2011 scheme review and 2016 renewal can be found on our Council meetings pages (go to Agenda Item 12).

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