COUNCIL officers will knock on doors in an effort to catch licence-dodging land-lords.
Enforcement bosses say about 1,860 landlords face fines of up to £20,000 each for not applying for a house of multiple occupation (HMO) licence.
Since January 2011 more than 3,000 landlords in Oxford have either applied for a licence or been given one, with nearly 900 licence applications currently pending.
Council health development service manager Ian Wright, pictured, said the authority planned to come down hard on rogue landlords from next month.
He said: “There are around 2,000 properties out there which still require licences.
“In some cases this will be because they don’t know, for example if they are living somewhere like Dubai and have a family member in Manchester keeping an eye on their property for them, they might not have heard about HMO licences. “But we think there’s quite a lot of people who know about it, but are effectively avoiding it and waiting for us to find them.”
Mr Wright said the council had worked with residents’ groups over the course of the year to identify homes which were operating as shared houses without a licence, but said the council has been taking an increasingly proactive approach.
This includes meeting with letting agents and with community groups to let people know about the scheme and a new publicity campaign will begin in the New Year.
He said: “There is no real excuse for not knowing about these regulations.”
City council deputy leader Ed Turner said: “Landlords have had until now to come forward and licence their HMOs but regrettably some haven’t.
“This scheme has been extremely widely advertised and the fact that so many properties have been licenced shows that.If you are a landlord with a HMO it is still not too late to get in touch.”
For landlords caught flouting the law, the consequences are severe.
The council can impose a “finders fee” to pay for officers’ time spent trying to track properties down.
And they can face a fine of up to £20,000 for being unlicenced, and further fines if their property is in an inadequate condition.
The scheme was unpopular with some landlords, because the licences cost from £362 per property.
National Landlords’ Association policy officer Gavin Dick said landlords had opposed blanket HMO licensing on the grounds that councils already had powers to fight problems such as anti-social behaviour, poor waste management and run-down properties.
He said: “There is already a lot of legislation in place which helps councils deal with these problems, which are often there as a result of councils’ failure to carry out adequate enforcement.”
He added that it was likely a proportion of landlords were unaware of the law, but admitted some were breaking it on purpose.
HMO figures since Jan 2011
- Estimated number of HMOs in Oxford: 5,000
- Number of licences issued: 2,250
- Number of licences currently pending: 884
- Estimated number of licences outstanding: 1,866
- Maximum fine for failure to licence: £20,000
- Number of landlords fined: 15
- Total fines: £28,703
- Number of landlords cautioned: 16