Tenants living in rented accommodation of five or more people in Canterbury will be able to claim rent back if landlords fail to comply with tough new licensing rules.
From October, landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) will have to apply for a licence or face being prosecuted to the tune of up to £30,000.
Canterbury City Council estimates that up to 800 properties across the district will need licences and is urging landlords to submit their applications as soon as possible.
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Tenants could also be in line to claim back any rent paid during the time when the property should have been licensed but wasn’t.
Cllr Neil Baker, the council’s communities chairman, said: “This is the biggest shake-up of HMO licensing rules for many years and aims to improve standards in this type of accommodation.
“We’ve been talking with landlords for some time about these changes, so it’s not news to them, but this is now the final push to ensure outstanding applications come into us as soon as they can.
“We will turn them round as quickly as possible, but we don’t want a situation where everything is left until the last minute.”
Under current HMO licensing rules, only 210 properties in the district are licensed.
These are defined as being rented to five or more people who form more than one household, are at least three storeys high and have shared facilities such as a toilet or bathroom.
By October 1, owners of properties, including flats above commercial premises, in which five or more people not from the same household share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom must have, or at least have applied for, an HMO licence from the council.
A licence costs £1,068 for a property comprising up to five bedrooms with an additional £61 per extra unit of accommodation which is let and can last for up to five years.