Tenants renting accommodation within Southampton, including University students living in private rented accommodation, could face eviction if their landlords do not comply with new licensing requirements introduced by Southampton City Council.
The requirements, which were introduced between 2013 and 2015 in Bassett, Bevois Valley, Portswood, Swaythling, Freemantle and Millbrook, state that any rented house home to three or more occupants now needs to be licensed as a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).
It is thought that some landlords have delayed applying for these licences due to the costs, which can potentially reach up to £1000. This is despite the threat of fines of up to £20,000 for failing to comply with the new rules, under which landlords are obliged to comply with certain specifications including the use of fire resistant doors and thumb locks for easier emergency escape.
The BBC now estimate that there is around 1,500 unlicensed properties in the Southampton area. One tenant told the broadcaster that their landlord had asked them to leave as a result of the changes that would have had to be made:
The first I knew of the legislation was when I was asked to leave my home. I haven’t been able to find anything else in the two month’s notice given to me by my landlord…
It’s a worrying situation. It would be better if landlords had to tell tenants, and if all landlords had to be registered.
On a national level, HMO licensing is generally applied to houses of three stories or more, occupied by five or more persons who are not relatives. A Southampton City Council spokesperson said that although the majority of landlords had co-operated with the new measures, one company and thirteen individuals have so far been prosecuted for not applying for an HMO licence.