Published: Thursday, 27 August 2020

Oxford City Council is proposing to launch public consultation on two licensing schemes aimed at improving conditions in the private rented sector.

In January the council set out far-reaching plans to reshape the sector, which now makes up almost half (49%) of housing stock in the city. The proposed consultations are a necessary step in delivering these plans and the council wants to seek views on:

  • an extension of the current ‘additional’ licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) until 2026
  • the introduction of a new ‘selective licensing’ scheme to cover all homes in the private rented sector and not just HMOs

HMO licensing

HMOs are homes rented out to three or more people who are not from the same family and who share facilities. All HMO landlords in Oxford must get a licence that ensures an HMO meets safety standards, they are a ‘fit and proper person’ and that they comply with council waste disposal and storage requirements.

In 2011 Oxford was the first council in England to introduce a citywide scheme that required every HMO to be licensed. The current scheme is due to expire in January 2021. Consultation is required as a condition of renewing the scheme for another five years.

Selective licensing

A recent review of housing conditions suggests that a fifth of the 30,000 homes in Oxford’s private rented sector have a serious housing hazard. Selective licensing would allow the council to extend existing licensing powers to cover all privately rented homes in Oxford.

Government rules allow councils to introduce selective licensing if 20% of homes in an area are privately rented. If the consultation is in favour of introducing selective licensing, the final scheme will need to be approved by the government.

Consultation proposals

The housing and homelessness panel will consider the proposals next Thursday (3 September) before cabinet makes a final decision on 9 September.

If agreed, a 12 week public consultation will begin on 10 September. This will be carried out independently by Opinion Research Services (ORS) on behalf of the council.

ORS will aim to seek the views of all stakeholders – including landlords, agents, industry associations, residents and resident’s groups, private tenants, third sector organisations, advice agencies, registered housing providers, councillors, businesses and neighbouring councils.


“While many private landlords are good and responsible landlords, unfortunately we know that this isn’t true in all cases. Our research indicates that around a fifth of homes in the private rented sector have a serious hazard. We want to deliver on our plans to protect tenants, drive up standards and crack down on rogue landlords, which is why we are looking to extend licensing from HMOs to cover all private rented homes.

“Consultation is the first step in this process, and this will be carried out independently on our behalf by ORS. Housing is a serious issue in Oxford and we want to capture and reflect the views of all stakeholders before taking further action to improve our private rented sector.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery

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