Marijana No Comments

Almost 20 rogue shared houses served with enforcement notices since start of year

The landlords of almost 20 shared houses in Brighton have been told to convert them back into family use since the beginning of the year as the council’s crackdown on rogue HMOs continues.

And the council has also won four appeals by landlords against the council’s decision to refuse permission to convert more homes into HMOs – after all four have already been converted.

Four of the 19 houses served with enforcement notices are in Brading Road off Elm Grove, an area which has experienced trouble with antisocial behaviour in the past.

In 2015, a man was punched in the face and hit in the head with a can of beer after he complained about noise from a party in Brading Road. This was not one of the houses served with a notice, but other partygoers told neighbours it was a student area so they shouldn’t be complaining.

The university subsequently banned students in two houses in the road from throwing any more parties. A suspect was identified, but police decided there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute and the case was later dropped.

Toxish Doyle, who lived in Brading Road when the assault took place, said she and her disabled mother had eventually been forced to move because of problems with student houses.

She said: “I don’t live there any more for the pure reason that shared houses destroyed the environment and made it unsafe to live there with my disabled mother.

“So I believe it’s a great thing and hopefully the friends we have that live on the street still will get some more peace and quiet

“Every time I complained I was told it was a student area so I had no right to complain and that I should move! Finally we gave in. Luckily we were in a financial position that meant moving was just affordable.

“I just hope the couple of nice people I met student wise that really did respect the area don’t end up without housing. I’ve seen that happen before. The restrictions are a double-edged sword really.”

Councillor Julie Cattell, chair of the planning committee, said: “We are pleased the planning inspector agreed with our decisions. These HMOs did not create decent living space for their occupants.

“We would urge property owners to check whether planning permission is needed before going ahead with work as if permission is refused it could cost them thousands of pounds, both in legal costs and in putting properties back to how they were. The council also takes enforcement action when properties are not returned to their agreed use.”

An application to convert a first floor flat to a small HMO of five rooms and a kitchen at 33 Baker Street was refused but the works had already been done.

In considering the appeal the planning inspector noted that the kitchen could only comfortably hold two people at any one time while the ‘communal space’ for residents was a hallway with only room for a small sofa against one section of wall.

It was found that the communal area was being used to dry clothes and store items as there was not enough space in the rooms themselves.

The outdoor terrace at the property could only be used for part of the year and there was concern about increased noise and disturbance for neighbours.

In upholding the council’s decision, the planning inspector noted that the accommodation was of a poor standard and would be harmful to the living conditions of existing and future residents.

The planning inspector came to a similar conclusion at 33 Hallett Road, a semi-detached house in the Elm Grove area. This has already been turned into a six-bedroomed HMO to house students. The planning inspector agreed with the council that it does not provide satisfactory living conditions for those who will live there, and last week the council served a notice on the owners to cease use as an HMO.

Two properties, 33 Hillside and 2 Plymouth Avenue, in the Moulescoomb and Bevendean area of the city have permission to be smaller HMOs but have been turned into large (seven bedrooms or more) HMOs without planning permission.

The planning inspector upheld the council’s view that permission should be refused on these properties due to the inadequate internal space to provide acceptable living conditions. Both properties have recently had works to increase their size. One is an end of terrace house (Hillside), the other a bungalow.

The other houses served with notices are 103 Halland Road, 9 Isfield Road and 32 The Highway in Moulsecoomb; 1 and 3 Bristol Street in East Brighton; Flat 4, 154 Freshfield Road and 249 Queens Park Road in Queens Park; 27 Coldean Lane and 31 Park Road, Coldean; 9 Old Shoreham Road, Seven Dials; 27 Hollingbury Road, Hollingbury, 81 Washington Street and 9 Whichelo Place, Hanover; and land at 130 Coombe Road.

Outstanding appeals against planning refusal for HMOs are currently being considered for 72 Brading Road (one of the houses served with an enforcement notice), 40 Pankhurst Avenue and 29 Southampton Street.

Reports on recent and current appeals will be noted by councillors at the 4 April Planning Committee.

Source: Brighton and Hove News

Marijana No Comments

Rogue landlord prosecuted for the second time in six months for HMO offences

An Oxford landlord with a previous conviction for housing offences was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay the City Council £1,535 in costs when he appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on 20 March 2018.

The City Council successfully prosecuted Mr Imtiaz Gulzar for the second time in six months for failing to comply with his responsibilities under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) (England) Regulations 2006 at a large HMO on Cowley Road, Oxford.

Mr Gulzar, (41) of Cowley Road, pleaded guilty to:

  • failure to keep his property in good order and repair;
  • failure to ensure that all notices indicating the location of means of escape from fire are displayed in positions within the HMO that enable them to be clearly visible to the occupiers;
  • failure to maintain property in good and clean decorative repair, and
  • failure to maintain property in a safe and working condition

After hearing the facts of the case and considering a written statement of mitigation, as well as a notice of intention to cite a previous conviction, the Court proceeded to fine Mr Gulzar £10,000 and ordered him to pay £1,535 towards the Council’s costs.

In November 2017, Mr Gulzar was prosecuted for failing to comply with the conditions attached to an HMO licence for a property in Iffley Road, Oxford. In that case, he was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £1,425 in costs.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, said: “The City Council is committed to ensuring high standards in the private rented sector and protecting tenants against landlords who do not meet their responsibilities under the law. I am pleased that in this second prosecution of Mr Gulzar, the Court imposed a higher fine than in the first case.

“This is one of the last cases to go through the courts as we are now using the new financial penalty powers that came into force in April last year. These powers allow us to issue financial penalties of up to £30,000 for certain housing offences rather than take up cases to the courts for prosecution. On average, we have issued penalties that are nearly four times what the courts used to fine landlords, so we believe the new powers will provide an even greater deterrent against violations of housing regulations by landlords.”

Source: Oxford City Council

Marijana No Comments

Plan to make family home in St John’s, Worcester an HMO approved despite safety fears

HOMES used as bedsits or as shared ‘student-style’ housing “devalue and degrade a neighbourhood”, according to a councillor. Cllr Alan Amos made the comment about a plan to turn a four-bedroom family home into a five-room house of multiple occupancy (HMO) at Worcester City Council’s planning committee meeting.

Cllr Amos said: “We should enhance a neighbourhood, not damage neighbours’ amenity.”

The application was brought by Martin Kelly who lives in the house in Palmers Green in St John’s with his brother.

He said he wanted to turn the house into a home for five people, adding: “It would not necessarily be students. It’s suitable for professional people as well as students.”

A neighbour, Glyn Harding objected strongly to the plan. He said: “Mr Kelly is a good neighbour but this proposal for an HMO is not suitable for a street full of family homes. An HMO will lead to more foot and vehicle traffic, and this street is dangerous.”

Mr Harding said the street had been built without pavements so people were forced to walk in the carriageway and a series of bends in the road created poor sightlines. He said: “Elderly people, parents pushing buggies and children are all in the road, and this will be unsafe.”

However, Worcestershire County Council’s highways officer Steve Hawley said the road met national standards at 4.5m wide.

He added: “There have been no accidents in the road since it was constructed. The absence of foot-ways is part of the shared space concept and there is no evidence to suggest this proposal would be unsafe.”

Mr Harding was also concerned about ‘clustering’ of HMOs. He said: “There are eight other HMOs within a 200m radius. About 65 percent of HMOs in Worcester are in St John’s. We are well over the tipping point.” The plan was approved by six votes to one against with two abstentions.

Source: Worcester News

Marijana No Comments

City landlord fined £2,000 for property condition failings

A property management company has been landed with a legal bill of almost £2,000 after admitting that it failed to keep a property in Nottingham in good repair.

Nottingham City Council`s Housing Licensing and Compliance team secured a successful prosecution against ADKAM CIC (Community Interest Company) resulting in a fine of £1000 with costs of £836 and a £100 victim surcharge at Nottingham Magistrates court.

The Council prosecuted ADKAM CIC for five separate Housing Act offences due to the licence holder failing to manage the property in line with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

ADKAM CIC pleaded guilty to five separate offences of failing to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations.

Nottingham City Council’s Housing Licensing and Compliance team licence landlords to operate HMOs. The council regularly undertakes risk-based compliance visits to ensure landlords are complying with the law, and on the 7th April 2017 council officers inspected a licensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) on Gregory Boulevard.

The licenced HMO was in a state of disrepair and the landlord ADKAM CIC was failing in its duties to manage the premises in accordance with the law. ADKAM CIC admitted in court that they had failed to keep the property in repair.

Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing, Cllr Jane Urquhart, said: “Landlords are required to manage their property in accordance with the law. As this case shows, we will take robust action through the courts to prosecute landlords who put tenants’ safety at risk.

“We have powers to revoke the licence of anyone convicted of offences such as these, preventing them from operating premises in future, as well as to impose civil penalties of up to £30,000 against landlords who contravene the law, as an alternative to taking prosecutions through the Courts.”

From April 6th 2018 anyone committing a defined housing related offence such as this may receive a banning order preventing them from owning or operating rented housing.

Source: West Bridgford Wire

Marijana No Comments

Durham HMO refused planning permission because of number of students in area

DEVELOPERS hoping to build a new student house in the grounds of a Victorian villa have been refused planning permission.

The proposal to replace a double garage in a with a three-storey house of multiple occupation (HMO) was rejected unanimously by members of Durham County Council’s central and east planning committee.

Applicant Timon Kaya had applied on behalf of Green Mountain Estates Ltd to build the property in the grounds of The Lodge, in Laburnum Avenue, Durham.

The plans were opposed by residents, local councillors and MP Roberta Blackman-Woods.

The application was rejected because it would have been in breach of the council’s interim policy on HMOs, as 64 per cent of properties within the site are in multiple occupation.

The developer had argued an exception should be made because there are so many HMOs in the area, another one would not cause further detrimental harm.

Councillor Liz Brown, speaking in opposition to the plans, said: “The developer seems to think this area is past praying for.

“There are a particularly erudite bunch of people living there who have described the difficulties of living in the area but they still feel there’s hope for the area.”

Cllr David Freeman said: “The surrounding area has 64 per cent HMOs so this further permission will make the situation worse.

“HMOs in Laburnum Avenue led to 19 police community protection orders since the beginning of this student year – this is the reality of what happens in areas of Durham city centre.”

Cllr Patricia Jopling said: “We are in Durham building copious amounts of student accommodation and we have to wonder whether it’s a necessary development anyway.”

Source: The Northern Echo

Marijana No Comments

HMO minimum room sizes to come into force 1 October 2018

The Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government has published the expected regulations confirming that from 1 October 2018 HMOs licensed in England under part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 will be required to have a floor area no-smaller than 6.51 square metres.

Licenses issued from 1 October will have to contain the following conditions:

  • to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged over 10 years is not less than 6.51 square metres;
  • to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by two persons aged over 10 years is not less than 10.22 square metres;
  • to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged under 10 years is not less than 4.64 square metres;
  • to ensure that any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres is not used as sleeping accommodation.

Where a breach is found to exist, local authorities will be able to grant a period not exceeding 18 months to rectify the situation.

Additionally, a condition will be included to mandate that landlords of licensed HMOs comply with any relevant local authority waste scheme – although no further details or minimum requirements are specified.

The full draft SI may be found here: The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018

Source: Landlords

Marijana No Comments

More landlords will be caught in HMO licensing net

Updated government rules are set to draw thousands more buy-to-let landlords into the HMO licensing net and failure to comply could see them subjected to unlimited fines.

In early March, the Government introduced the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 (2018/221) (LHMO 2018), which comes into effect from October 1, 2018.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), are defined by the Government as “a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (eg a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’.”

The Residential Landlords Association recently predicted that as many as an additional 177,000 homes could be subject to HMO licensing and 16% of landlords currently rent to people in HMOs.

Current rules

At present, landlords operating an HMO, are subject to the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 (2006/371), which is applied in certain regions of England and Wales.

Under the present rules, landlords must have a licence if renting out a large HMO. This is defined as five or more people who form more than one household, is at least three storeys high and tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.

However, some local councils still demand a licence even if the property is smaller and rented to fewer people.

At the moment, HMO licensing is limited to specific local authorities, so whether a landlord’s property is subject to one, depends on its location. Landlords can check whether their local council requires an HMO licence on a relevant property, by visiting the following page https://www.gov.uk/house-in-multiple-occupation-licence

The new rules

Under the new rules, licensing will apply to HMOs occupied by five or more people, irrespective of the number of storeys. Also, HMO licensing will apply to purpose-built flats where there are up to two flats in the block.

A licence is valid for five years and a separate licence must apply to each HMO property.

There will be transitional provisions for HMOs that are already licensed under the selective licensing provisions, which will last for six months, but which will be subject to mandatory licensing from 1 October 2018.

Licence requirements

In order to operate a licenced HMO, landlords must comply with a number of standards:

  • the house must be suitable for the number of occupants;
  • whoever manages the property – whether that is the landlord or an agent, must be considered ‘fit and proper’ and must have no criminal record or history of breaching landlord laws of code of practice;
  • the local council must be sent an updated gas safety certificate annually;
  • the landlord must install and maintain smoke alarms;
  • the landlord must provide safety certificates for all electrical appliances within the property when requested.

Comment

Jorden Abbs, director of operations at Commercial Trust Limited commented: “It is imperative that landlords check whether their property is classified as an HMO requiring a licence by October 1, or they risk falling foul of the updated laws.

“This extension of the HMO laws will place further pressure on landlords and local authorities, but can also be viewed as a further initiative aimed at raising standards within the private rental sector.

“We have not, as yet, received any comment from lenders as to whether this will affect existing borrowers, although realistically we can expect a couple of potential outcomes.

“Lenders who currently offer mortgages to HMOs that are not currently licensed, but will be under the new rules, can either change their criteria to accommodate these properties and continue to transact; or they will not and at renewal the borrower will have to look elsewhere.

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

Marijana No Comments

Bedford Landlord Fined For Unlicensed HMO

Bedford landlord has been prosecuted for operating an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Bedford Borough Council prosecuted Mr Fhalora of Ampthill Road, Bedford, in January for failing to obtain an Additional HMO Licence for the property that he manages on behalf of its owner. Mr Fhalora lets out the Brackley Road property to tenants.

The landlord was found guilty in his absence after entering a not guilty plea. As a result of this, he was fined £2,500 by Luton Magistrates Court. He was also told that he must pay the council’s full costs of £8,911.12 along with a victim surcharge of £170.

Bedford Borough Council introduced the Additional HMO Licensing scheme in 2013. It applies to properties rented out to three or more unrelated tenants who share facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. These types of properties are subject to additional regulation to give greater protection to tenants who reside in them. The licences require landlords to invest in their properties, making them safer and improving their state of repair.

Mr Fhalora had been reminded by the council’s Community Regulation Team that he was required to license the property under the Housing Act 2004. However, the court heard that the rogue landlord had failed to act on the advice he was given by the council. He potentially risked the safety of his tenants and neglected his responsibilities as a landlord.

Portfolio Holder for Community Safety & Regulatory Services, Councillor Colleen Atkins, said: ‘Bedford Borough Council prioritises the safety of its residents by ensuring the Borough’s private rented sector is effectively regulated. An Additional HMO Licence is required for HMOs which are occupied by three or more unrelated people who share certain facilities in the household such as a kitchen or bathrooms. Anyone who owns or manages an HMO can check with the Council to see if they need to have a licence.’

Source: Residential Landlord

Marijana No Comments

High Court ruling counts children as residents in HMOs

The High Court has confirmed that children under the age of 18 are ‘residents’ for planning purposes when calculating the total number of residents in a Class C4 HMO.

Paramaguru v London Borough of Ealing

In the case of Paramaguru v London Borough of Ealing, Mr Justice Supperstone was asked by local landlord Sinnathurai Paramaguru to rule on the judgement made by Ealing Magistrates Court that children up to 18 years of age can be classified as residents under the jurisdiction of Class C4 of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987, and whether the magistrates had jurisdiction to state a case.

The court also charged Mr Paramaguru with one offence of breaching a planning enforcement notice contrary to section 179(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which required him to cease the use of his property as a Class C4 HMO.

Following this ruling by the magistrates’, Mr Paramaguru entered a guilty plea, where the case was subsequently referred to Isleworth Crown Court under section 70 of the proceeds of crime act 2002, where confiscation proceedings and furthering sentencing will be put to consideration, however the hearing has been adjourned pending the outcome of the appeal.

In his judgement, Justice Supperstone ruled that the magistrates were correct in their ruling that children under 18 count as ‘residents’ in these circumstances, agreeing with magistrates concerns of uncertainty, outlined in paragraph 7 of the case: “We strongly believe that Parliament did not intend to create a situation where you could have a property, for example the property we are dealing with, to have six adults and 40 children and still be within the law. If we were to find that children do not count that situation would be possible.”

Continuing his ruling, Justice Supperstone argued that a ruling to the contrary position would introduce uncertainty in regards to local authority control of HMO’s, which are “likely to be made more difficult through the introduction of uncertainty… if they have to assess whether children are ‘young’ or ‘very young’.”

Read the full case hearing here.

Planning Changes

Since 2010 in England the introduction of the C4 Planning Use Class for small HMOs has meant that letting a house or flat to two or more households has represented a material change of use – technically requiring planning permission. Fortunately this is covered by general permitted development meaning that no application is required.

However, local authorities can designate an Article 4 Direction removing all permitted development rights, and subsequently require landlords to apply for planning permission before letting to sharers instead of a single household or family.

Applications for planning permission in Article 4 areas had been free, but due to recent changes a landlord may now have to pay a fee (increased to £462.00) for applying for a change of use in an area where permitted development has been withdrawn.

This change encourages local authorities to remove permitted development so they can gather a fee from landlords.

The Government is also strengthening the rules surrounding HMO standards and licensing for children, with Housing Minister Heather Wheeler introducing new measures effective in October that will dictate minimum room sizes, with rooms slept in by children 10 years or younger to be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.

Read more about the extension of mandatory HMO licensing here.

 Source: Landlords
Marijana No Comments

Operating unlicensed HMO costs Bedford landlord more than £11K

A landlord has been prosecuted by Bedford Borough Council for operating an unlicensed HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) in the Bedford area.

Mr Fhalora of Ampthill Road, Bedford, was charged on January 3 with failing to obtain an Additional HMO Licence for the property that he manages on behalf of the owner and leases to tenants in Brackley Road.

Mr Fhalora was found guilty in his absence after entering a not guilty plea. As a result, Luton Magistrates Court fined him £2,500. Mr Fhalora was also ordered to pay the council’s full costs of £8,911.12 along with a victim surcharge of £170.

The court heard Mr Fhalora had been reminded by the council’s Community Regulation Team that he was required to licence the property under the Housing Act 2004. However, he failed to act on the advice given, potentially putting the safety of the tenants at risk and showing wilful neglect of his responsibilities as a landlord.

Councillor Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety & Regulatory Services said: “Bedford Borough Council prioritises the safety of its residents by ensuring the Borough’s private rented sector is effectively regulated.

An Additional HMO Licence is required for HMOs which are occupied by three or more unrelated people who share certain facilities in the household such as a kitchen or bathrooms.

Anyone who owns or manages an HMO can check with the Council to see if they need to have a licence.” Bedford Borough Council introduced an Additional HMO Licensing scheme in 2013 for properties rented out to three or more unrelated occupiers who share facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.

These types of properties are subject to further regulation to give greater protection to tenants as these licences require landlords to invest in their properties, making them safer and in a better state of repair Landlords or tenants requiring further information or clarification regarding HMO Licensing requirements should contact the HMO Licensing Team on (01234) 718099 or refer to the council’s website at: www.bedford.gov.uk/multipleoccupation

Source: Bedford Today