All HMOs with five or more people require a mandatory HMO licence (required England-wide under the Housing Act 2004).
All other HMOs in Oxford must have a licence under the Council's Additional Licence scheme. This is ending on 24th January 2021.
If you suspect a property may be an HMO without a licence for can report it anonymously for us to investigate.
We use a combination of “proactive” and “reactive” approaches to track down unlicensed HMOs:
- Proactive – We use various open and closed sources of intelligence to target rogue landlords who operate unlicensed and unsafe HMOs. We carry out a desktop review of intelligence. If we believe the property is likely to be an HMO then we will conduct an unannounced visit – we will visit at different times of the day to try to establish if the property is an HMO. If we believe it is unlikely to be an HMO, we will send the owner information on licensing.
- Reactive – all reports of unlicensed HMOs are checked. If the report comes from the occupants, then we will always visit as soon as possible – we do not inform the landlord of the visit however we may try to arrange access with the occupant (reporting person) to minimise wasted visits. For other reports, then we undertake a desk based check and if we believe it is likely to be an HMO then we will conduct an unannounced visit – we will prioritise these depending on the information available. If we believe it is unlikely to be an HMO, we will send the owner information on licensing.
When we find unlicensed HMOS then:
- We can enter houses at any reasonable time to investigate offences without having to give notice and if necessary, we can gain a warrant from the Magistrates’ Court
- Tenants of unlicensed HMOs can claim up to a year’s rent back from their landlord and we provide tenants with information on how to do so.
- Section 21 Notices to Quit are not valid whilst an HMO remains unlicensed – we provide tenants with information on their rights to remain in the house and provide contact details for our Tenancy Relations Officer and Housing Needs / Homelessness team
- We will contact the owner to inform them of the requirement to licence the house
- We will decide if it is appropriate to begin an investigation and may take enforcement action.
We cannot take action when:
- We determine the house is not an HMO. It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO without a licence. If we are to take enforcement action then we have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the property is an HMO. If we have repeated complaints about the same property then we may decide to use of powers of entry and request an inspection.
- The house is not within Oxford City Council’s boundary
You can check our list of licensed properties on our Register of HMO Licences
Summary of work 2015 to 2019:
- We investigated 2,100 suspected HMOs (both proactive and reactive) resulting in 1,800 individual properties checked;
- 858 properties were visited;
- 367 HMOs were found – requiring a higher HMO licence fee to be paid (2020 fees - £1998 instead of £541);
- 190 landlords / agents were formally interviewed under caution;
- 125 formal enforcement actions (64 prosecutions, 39 financial penalties, 22 cautions)
Safety in non-HMOs
If necessary, we will refer the property to our private sector safety team for inspection and improvement to property condition
Disrepair in HMOs
All HMOs must be managed effectively and failing to keep an HMO in good and safe repair is an offence. We enforce minimum standards for all licensed HMOs.
If you know of an HMO which is unsafe, in poor repair or you have concerns about the management, you can report it to us for investigation.