Oxford City Council has announced plans to extend licensing requirements for rented accommodation in the city, raising concerns that students will no longer be able to afford living out.
In an effort to raise the current standards of rented accommodation, a proposal is being put forward for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs), often rented by students who choose to live out, to have their licences extended.
The University Accommodation Office has warned that greater controls will increase rent and be detrimental to students living out.
Accommodation Officer Sue Jacobs said, “Although the University welcomes legislation which raises standards within the private rental market, imposing too many controls which have a cost to the landlord will ultimately raise rents. This will have a considerable impact on the student market, which is already financially constrained, and may cause students to compete with other tenant groups for properties at rents that are no longer sustainable on student grants.”
Jacobs also explained the University’s concern that increased regulation would reduce the number of houses available to students. “At a time when affordable housing is high on the agenda, properties that have for some time provided valuable affordable accommodation within the city may well disappear as landlords opt for easier management properties within the city or, alternatively, seek a different tenant group to recoup their outlay for improvements required under the extended licensing,” she said.
Oxford City Council believes it necessary to extend licensing as many HMOs are currently sub-standard.
Executive Member for Improving Housing Councillor Patrick Murray, pointed out, “Following a survey in 2004, it revealed that 61% of HMOs were below standard with their fire precaution facilities and 29 per cent of HMOs were found to have below-adequate management, and this is something that will change with this new licensing scheme.”
Murray believes that extending the properties’ licensing will beneficial to tenants living in currently unlicensed HMOs. “The additional licensing scheme will bring about improvements in the management of the houses which will be fantastic for people living there,” he said.
Under the 2004 Housing Act, only HMOs with three or more storeys which are occupied by five or more unrelated individuals have to be licensed. This covers only 15% of Oxford’s HMOs.