Landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city are being warned by Portsmouth City Council that they need to be licensed or face a hefty fine.

Two high profile cases recently resulted in fines for the landlords involved.

Currently properties where there are five or more people who form two or more households and share facilities like a kitchen or bathroom, require a licence, and landlords must comply with the mandatory HMO management regulations. These regulations are in place to ensure that living conditions in HMOs are safe and provide a healthy environment for tenants.

And from 1 September 2023, all other HMOs must apply for a licence too, known as “additional licensing”.

The council has powers to issue substantial fines of up to £30,000 to landlords that don’t comply with the law.

The council’s private sector enforcement officers fined an asset management company £15,000 after being made aware that five unrelated individuals were living at a property which had no HMO licence.

The property came to the attention of the council after information was received from a local resident prompting further investigation by the council’s private sector housing team, and involved partnership working with other agencies, including Wolverhampton City Council, to gather the required case evidence.

A tribunal upheld the fine being imposed, concluding after considering all evidence presented by both parties, they were satisfied that the offence under section 71(1) of the Housing Act 2004 had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

In their view there was no evidence produced by the company that supported claims that the tenants were living as a single household, unlike the evidence produced by the enforcing officer that suggested otherwise.

A comprehensive report of the tribunal’s decision and findings can be found at Property Tribunal decisions.

Another local landlord has also been fined for operating a property without an HMO licence.

The landlord has a large rental portfolio in the city and has been fined £24,000 for not having an HMO licence.
The landlord had claimed the property was occupied by four tenants.

An unannounced inspection conducted by enforcement officers confirmed otherwise. Officers entered the property and found six tenants living at the property and paying rent.

The landlord was called to attend the property at the time as it was identified by officers at the property there was also no working smoke detector. He was further instructed by the council and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire Rescue service to immediately resolve this safety issue, as it was clear the existing system had not been maintained and was not working.
When presented with the evidence, the landlord admitted that the property had six tenants and a financial penalty was issued for £24,000 for the licence breach.

Cllr Ian Holder, Cabinet Member for Safety in the Community said: “It’s so important that people live in safe and well-maintained properties, and HMO licensing allows us to make sure this is happening across the city. Our private sector enforcement officers work hard to maintain standards of HMOs in Portsmouth and failure to comply with licensing will result in a hefty fine.”

Applications for additional licensing open on 1 September and applicants will have until 1 December to submit their full application. The council aims to support compliant landlords, whilst taking decisive enforcement action against those that breach the law.

For further information on HMO licensing, as well as how to report an unlicensed HMO or to report a problem with your rented home, visit Portsmouth.gov.uk/landlords