Published: Thursday, 11 March 2021

Oxford City Council has approved two licensing schemes aimed at improving conditions and driving up standards in private rented housing.

Last night’s cabinet meeting agreed to renew an ‘additional’ licensing scheme for all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Cabinet members also agreed to introduce a ‘selective licensing’ scheme that – if confirmed by central government – means that all privately rented homes will need to be licensed.

Licensing requires private landlords to show that they are complying with the law by meeting safety and management standards, being a ‘fit and proper person’ and meeting council waste storage and disposal requirements.

Plans for both schemes were strongly backed by Oxford tenants, residents and stakeholder groups in an independent public consultation last year.

Additional HMO licensing renews the previous scheme which lapsed in January – a result of government advice to pause public consultation during the early stages of the pandemic. The new additional HMO licence scheme will run for five years and will commence after a statutory three month notice period on 10 June.

The public notice for the additional HMO licensing scheme is on the council website.

The selective licensing scheme must be confirmed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Officers will now begin work on two submissions to MHCLG, one outlining a selective licensing scheme for Holywell ward and the other proposing selective licensing in all wards except Holywell.

While all 24 wards in Oxford have more than 20% of homes privately rented – a necessary threshold for selective licensing – there are fewer properties with serious home hazards and less evidence of poor housing conditions in Holywell than in the other 23 wards.

A citywide scheme is the council’s preferred option but it believes the preparation of two submissions would maximise the likelihood of achieving selective licensing in Oxford.

“Every tenant deserves a decent home and a clear majority of Oxford’s private renters agree with us that licensing will help drive up standards and crack down on rogue landlords. Renewing additional HMO and licensing all privately rented homes will also protect the majority of responsible landlords and agents who do a good job.

“The additional HMO licensing scheme will resume for five years on 10 June after a statutory three month notice period. We’ll now begin work on making the case to MHCLG that all privately rented homes in Oxford should be licensed, not just HMOs.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery

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