Back in November the NLA launched a campaign to uncover the excessive fees that local councils are charging landlords for licensed Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and Selective and Additional Licensed properties.
The first stage of the campaign was to write to all councils in England outlining recent court cases which judged that license charges can only be levied in relation to the processing and administration of licenses (Hemming V Westminster Council judgement), that councils may not charge for variations to licenses (Crompton V Oxford City Council) and that two storey properties with stairways down to the ground floor entrances cannot be classified as licensable HMOs (Bristol City Council v Digs Bristol).
We have asked each council to respond to our letter, stating the charges levied for HMO and discretionary licenses, whether it will be necessary for them to adjust their fees in line with the Hemming V Westminster Council judgement and what mechanism they have in place for reimbursement to landlords of costs already incurred.
Following the Crompton v Oxford City Council case, the NLA has asked councils to explain how they intend to process refunds in respect of any landlords who have been charged for a variation in their HMO license. Several councils have indicated that they will be contacting landlords and refunding money, these include Ipswich Council, Stockton-on-Teas and Dover District Council and several more are reviewing there charging.
Unfortunately, there are a number of councils which have failed to acknowledge the outcome of the court cases. These are somewhat worrying and we will be following up with the council offices in question.
As a result of the Bristol City Council v Digs case, the NLA has asked for information on the number of HMOs that have been licensed unnecessarily and how these charges might be reimbursed. We await this information and will be following up in the coming months with guidance on how councils can best structure their licensing charges.