A licensing scheme that aims to improve housing standards and the management of privately rented houses in the city will be extended to include 12 wards in central Bristol.

Bristol’s Labour administration has taken the decision to expand the licensing scheme to include Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Ashley, Bishopston and Ashley Down, Central, Clifton, Clifton Down, Cotham, Easton, Hotwells and Harbourside, Lawrence Hill, Redland, Southville and Windmill Hill.

HMOs are houses or flats that are let to three or more people who aren’t related and who share some facilities, like kitchens or bathrooms.

These wards have been identified as areas with high concentrations of HMOs and where housing and management standards are likely to be poor compared with the city as a whole.

The twelve wards will now be declared as areas where privately rented HMOs will require a licence under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004.

Previous schemes in the Stapleton Road area of Easton, and the Eastville and St George West wards, have shown that licensing has made a significant difference to the living conditions of tenants in these neighbourhoods. More than 4,400 licences have been issued and to date over 1,800 properties have been improved.

The introduction of licensing schemes helps improve property conditions, as officers will be able to inspect every private rented property to check conditions and take action where standards are not met.

Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “I am delighted that this vital scheme is being rolled out across central Bristol. We know from experience that licensing is a good way to deal with issues of poor standards of accommodation and inefficient property management.

“Although most landlords are providing quality rented accommodation and a good service to their tenants, we are aware that a significant number of HMOs are being poorly managed and maintained in these areas.

“As the private rented sector continues to grow, it is vital that we continue to take steps to help protect vulnerable tenants and ensure that everyone in the city has access to decent housing.”

The council consulted with private landlords and local residents who would be affected by the proposal, to establish whether it should consider extending this approach to HMOs in the 12 wards in central Bristol. The result of the consultation endorsed the council’s recommendation for licensing.

Landlords will be charged a fee for licensing their properties to cover the costs of the scheme.  A licence would normally last for five years and conditions will be attached to the licence to improve management practices and standards.

Advice and guidance on the necessary improvements required to ensure that licensing conditions are met is also available. However, where landlords do not comply with the required standards, enforcement action will be considered.

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