Shared homes' safety on agenda for Bath and North East Somerset Council
New licensing for student accommodation in Bath could help improve fire safety.
Additional rules governing houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are being considered by Bath and North East Somerset Council in a bid to make properties safer for residents.
According to the authority there are currently 6,310 HMOs in the district, mostly occupied by students, though shared houses are also popular with young professionals.
A new report from the council reveals a list of potential rules that could be enforced should the authority decide to impose additional licensing on HMOs, which could cost landlords £600 per property.
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The move comes in the wake of a sharp increase in private rented homes, an increase in fires reported in HMOs and a rise in the rate of complaints about waste and maintenance.
In B&NES the likelihood of fire in any one year in a HMO is 5.03 per 1,000 – compared to 2.83 in the city's housing general housing stock.
It also says that half of all the complaints received by its housing services team related to HMOs in Westmoreland, Oldfield and Widcombe – the three wards likely to be the focus of the new scheme.
The idea of further licensing has been criticised by landlords, who have expressed concern about additional bureaucracy and costs.
The National Landlords Association representative for Bath, Jacqui Darbyshire, said: "We are also concerned that these measures will reduce the amount of shared housing in Bath and could have a negative impact on the local economy and businesses that cater to students' needs or rely on trade from the city's universities."
But Councillor Will Sandry (Lib Dem, Oldfield) who has been campaigning for years for increased regulation of HMOs, said: "This is about quality of housing, adding benefits and helping those who live in houses of multiple occupation."
A decision will be taken in March.