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Plans to increase number of residents living in HMO set for approval despite concerns of overcrowding

Plans to increase the maximum number of people that can live in a HMO on the outskirts of town have been recommended for approval, despite a series of concerns about overcrowding.

At present the house in multiple occupation at 86 Erddig Road is currently occupied by eight residents housed in eight single bedrooms

But due to the “demands for such accommodation” in the area, the applicant is seeking permission to allow the property to be let as seven double bedrooms for a maximum of 14 residents.

Next week members of the council’s planning committee will be asked to approve the plans.

However the application has been met with objection by councillor Alun Jenkins, a number of residents and the community council, who have argued that there is a lack of parking and insufficient space for tenants.

Cllr Jenkins, who has has called for the application to be refused, adds: “It cannot be acceptable either in planning or in licensing terms that what was an original four bedroomed terraced house to house fourteen people.

“The facilities within the property are barely sufficient for the present eight residents, with a single kitchen/dining room on the ground floor for all the residents, a single WC and separate shower room on the ground floor, and a single small shower/wc on the first floor.

“It would appear that there are no proposals to improve the wc/shower facilities on either the ground or first floors to cater for the six additional residents.”

He continues onto say: “This is surely not the type of residential property that we would want to be encouraging in Wrexham.

“This part of Erddig Road is at the heart of the Conservation Area, and the creation of such sub-standard housing would be completely unacceptable and out of keeping with the area.”

But the council’s Chief Officer of Planning and Regulatory, Lawrence Isted states that because the property is already occupied as a HMO it is “unnecessary to consider whether the proposals result in an over concentration of this type of accommodation.”

Addressing concerns about lack of parking, Mr Isted notes that “whilst it is accepted the property has no off-street parking spaces it is not unusual in the area”.

He continues onto say that: “Very few households living in rental accommodation in Wrexham have more than 2 vehicles, with a significant proportion of households in rental accommodation not having access to a vehicle or only have one vehicle per household.”

Mr Isted adds: “The proposal seeks to reduce the number of bedrooms from eight to seven and on the basis of the new standard the parking requirement is identical.

“The proposal will result in an up-grading of the property and will provide an opportunity to
enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and preserve the areas character.

“The sustainable location reduces the requirement for occupiers to be reliant upon a car, with the property in close proximity to the main roads, bus routes, employment, access to shops and
health and community facilities.

“The property will provide general waste and garden waste bins. Open space will be provided in the 50m2 rear garden and 60m2 front garden. There is proposed cycle parking for 2 bicycles and a drying line will also be provided.”

The application will be considered for approval by planning committee members at 4pm on Monday 2nd September. The meeting will also be webcast on the Wrexham Council website.

Source: Wrexham

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Court hands agent £4,500 bill after HMO fire safety breaches

An agent has been fined £3,000 after admitting three offences relating to a House in Multiple Occupation. It was also ordered to pay £1,496 in costs plus a £120 victim surcharge.

Miller Metcalfe Estate Agents appeared at Bolton Magistrates Court, which heard how the building had two businesses on the ground floor, and a single tenant on the first floor.

When Miller Metcalfe took over the management of the second and third residential floors, this formed a second flat which was let to three more tenants.

This meant the property was reclassified as an HMO.

However, Bolton Council officers found that it did not have the fire safety measures required in an HMO. There was no fire-protected escape route, or interlinked fire alarm.

The council served an emergency prohibition order requiring the upper floor not to be used as residential accommodation. The tenants were found alternative accommodation.

In court Miller Metcalfe admitted it had not taken all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of their tenants.


Source: Property Industry Eye

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Licensing specialist warns that council’s advice could land agents and landlords in trouble

A specialist on licensing schemes is warning that agents and landlords in a London borough could find themselves in breach of the law if they follow advice given by the council’s own staff.

Richard Tacagni, of consultancy London Property Licensing, says that Barking and Dagenham is giving out wrong information.

The council’s two existing licensing schemes both expire on August 31.

While it is implementing a new borough-wide selective licensing scheme on September 1, it has no replacement additional licensing scheme – although it suggests it is planning to.

Tacagni said: “Without an additional licensing scheme in place, all HMOs that fall outside the mandatory HMO licensing scheme criteria will instead need to be licensed under the council’s selective licensing scheme when individual licences expire.”

However, on the two occasions he has phoned the council’s licensing hotline to request advice on what happens when an additional licence expires, he says he has been given wrong advice.

He has been told that smaller HMOs will not need licensing from September 1, and also to wait and see if an additional licensing scheme is introduced before applying.

But Tacagni said: “Following this advice could leave landlords and letting agents in breach of the law with the risk of a criminal prosecution. They could also find themselves unable to issue a Section 21 notice of seeking possession.

“In addition, it could enable the tenants to apply for a Rent Repayment Order for the period between the old licence expiring and a new licence application being submitted.

“To remain compliant, HMO landlords with an additional licence will need to apply for either a mandatory HMO or selective licence depending on the occupancy arrangements.

“Each application needs to be submitted on or before the date that the current licence expires.”

Tacagni says that to coincide with its changes to licensing, Barking and Dagenham has raised fees substantially.

Mandatory HMO licences are up by over a third, to £1,300 for a property with five sharers.

Selective licensing fees have been hiked 78%, from £506 to £900 per property.

Tacagni says this is the highest selective licensing fee in the country, and expected to generate over £16m in fee income over the next five years.

Tacagni said: “It is important that councils provide clear, consistent and accurate information to help landlords and agents correctly interpret local licensing rules.”

The full advice is here:


Source: Property Industry Eye

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Council’s licencing scheme ‘unlawful’, landlords claim

Coventry City Council could be breaking the law through its new landlord licensing and accreditation scheme, a trade body has warned.

The authority introduced a free, voluntary Coventry Landlord Accreditation Scheme under its new mandatory licensing system this year, effective from April 1.

But the Residential Landlords Association, which represents private sector landlords, says it could be in breach of European law, although Coventry council has disputed the claim.

Under the scheme, private landlords accredited by the council are able to obtain a longer licence for houses of multiple occupation (HMO) than those who are not, while also gaining financial benefit from paying a cheaper licence fee.

But the only way for landlords to become accredited currently is to attend training courses in Coventry in person, which the RLA says discriminates against landlords who do not live locally.

Landlords must also pay the entire licence fee upfront even if an application is pending, which the RLA believes is unlawful as a 2018 court case ruled licence fees should be split in two parts – the first being an application fee, and the second being once the licence is granted.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “The RLA is deeply concerned at the serious legal questions that hang over the council’s licensing and accreditation scheme.

“We would strongly urge the council to review this unjust scheme.”

The association has written to the authority calling on it to review both the accreditation and licensing scheme as a matter of urgency.

Coventry council says it has not acted unlawfully, adding it is in the process of developing an online training programme to its accreditation scheme.

Tracy Miller, head of planning and regulation, said “There are three different types of licensing – mandatory, additional and selective.

“Mandatory Licensing is what we already do and we have introduced an Accredited Landlord Scheme for this current licensing system.

“The proposal is for that same scheme to be used for selective and additional should we as a council adopt such schemes.

“The Accreditation Scheme is free to all, however at the moment it requires attendance at a training event.

“It is recognised that not all landlords, agents etc are local and therefore we are developing an on-line training programme in order that we are fair and inclusive to all.

“Our Accreditation Scheme focuses on the issues relevant to Coventry, so it is a local scheme for local people. It is meant to be a proactive tool to reduce the amount of reactive enforcement and to professionalise the sector.

“We would never do anything unlawfully.”

By Tom Davis

Source: Coventry Telegraph

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Plans to turn offices in Deeside into HMO turned down

Plans to turn offices in Deeside into a house in multiple occupation (HM0) have been thrown out.

Proposals were previously put forward to convert a former accountants office on Station Road in Queensferry to provide eight bedrooms.

The developers claimed there would be no major changes to the building if the scheme was to go ahead.

In a statement written on their behalf, planning agents said although there was no allocated parking included, it would not cause an issue.

However, officers from Flintshire Council have refused permission because of the flood risk at the site.

In the documents put forward to the local authority, representatives from Wrexham-based company Develemental said: “This application is for the change of use of a pair of end terrace commercial combined units.

“Currently the property is a vacant former accountancy office created from the joining of what was originally a pair of end-terraced residential properties.

“There will be no material change to the appearance of the property, except that it will be tidied up and will look better cared for and presented than it currently does.

“The only impact of the changes to the street scene is the removal of the shop front which will be largely blocked up, rendered to match with two privacy and secure window units to the two ground floor front bedrooms.

“Although no dedicated parking is provided as part of this proposal, the nature of the residents of a professionally run HMO has been proven to make this a non-issue.

“For any residents who do maintain a vehicle, immediately adjacent is a public car park which has very low daily and overnight charges.”

The scheme was refused by the council’s planning department using delegated powers.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter

Source: Deeside

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Landlords body tells city council that its plans for licensing could break the law

A major local authority has been warned that its licensing scheme could be in breach of the law.

Coventry Council updated its mandatory licensing scheme for landlords to include an accreditation regime.

Private landlords who are accredited can obtain longer HMO licences than those who are not.

The Residential Landlords Association has told the council it thinks this is unlawful because the only way for landlords to become accredited is to attend training courses in person.

The RLA argues that this discriminates against landlords who do not live close to their property in Coventry.

In a letter to the council, the RLA argues that this is unfair and unlawful because longer HMO licences offer a financial and practical benefit for landlords, yet only landlords who are members of the council’s accreditation scheme will benefit from being able to obtain a five-year HMO licence.

The RLA earlier wrote to the council raising concerns over the proposed fee structure in its additional and selective licensing consultation.

The RLA now has similar concerns about the mandatory HMO licensing fee structure.

As part of the scheme, landlords must pay the entire licence fee upfront, even if a licensing application is still pending.

The RLA considers this to be unlawful, given that a court case in 2018 ruled that licence fees should be split into two parts, the first part being an application fee and the second part being payable once the licence has been granted.

The RLA is now calling for the authority to review both the accreditation and licensing scheme as a matter of urgency.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “The RLA is deeply concerned at the serious legal questions that hang over the council’s licensing and accreditation scheme.

“We would strongly urge the council to review this unjust scheme.”

In May, the RLA wrote to Oxford City Council raising concerns that the council’s accreditation scheme breached EU law because landlords could only become accredited if they attended training courses in person.

Since then, the RLA and Oxford City Council have worked together to amend the accreditation scheme.


Source: Property Industry Eye

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HMO Property Investments Popular As House Sharers Get Older

Buy to let property investors are increasingly looking to HMO property investments as house sharers get older.

The latest data from property sharing platform, ideal flatmate, has looked at the changing face of the house share landscape and how more and more people above the age of 50 are prepared to be house sharers as a viable way of living.

Sharing houses has become a popular choice for many, particularly in major UK cities, where the cost of renting is too high to tackle alone.

House sharers are traditionally young people, with the 18-25 age group accounting for 43 per cent, while another 36 per cent are in the 25-35 age group.

As people become older, they are normally less likely to be house sharers, with 35-45 year-olds making up 13 per cent, 45-55 year-olds 6 per cent, and just 2 per cent of house sharers aged over 55.

However, this trend is starting to change.

just in this year so far Ideal Flatmate has seen an increase of 74 per cent in the number of over 50s using the platform compared to 2018, indicating that the older generation is coming around to the idea of being house sharers.

Co-founder of ideal flatmate, Tom Gatzen, thinks perceptions are starting to change and being house sharers has lost the ‘stigma’ it used to have, as rents continue to climb, and the issue of affordability grows ever larger. He thinks that ‘people of all ages are starting to band together and tackle the rental market in whatever way they can’.

He said: ‘Age is just a number and it’s one that doesn’t seem to hold any bearing what so ever when looking for that ideal flatmate and we expect that the fabric of the UK rental sector will continue to evolve as a result of this diversity and acceptance.’

Buy to let property investors can benefit from this new-found enthusiasm for house sharers with HMO investments that tend to bring higher rental yields.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Landlords and lenders need to be up to date with new HMO regulations

IN APRIL the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 came into force. It brings the regulations for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in line with the rest of the UK and imposes tough new requirements on landlords to avoid overcrowding in residential properties. It is a legislation that landlords, managing agents and lenders need to be aware of.

An HMO is a property in which three or more people from two or more different families live. It includes properties that have been converted into self-contained flats. Previously, it was the property that was the subject of the HMO Licence – and licences were granted by the NI Housing Executive, subject to certain works undertaken by the landlord to bring the property to HMO standards.

But this has now changed, and the responsibility for licensing is now passed to local councils. A landlord now must apply to register themselves as an HMO provider and must prove they are a fit and proper person to hold a licence and that granting the licence will not breach planning.

This regulation will impact landlords and managing agents across Northern Ireland, particularly those owning properties let to Queen’s University and Ulster University students at their various campuses and those intending to sell residential property portfolios.

Generally, the licence will be granted for a five-year period, but this can be shortened by the council. Licences are also subject to renewal and can also be revoked. An owner of an HMO must apply and have a licence before it can be used as an HMO and the council can refuse to grant a licence if it is not satisfied that the property has the relevant planning permissions. Though, if applications are revoked or refused, there is an option to appeal.

When ownership of a property is transferred, any existing HMO licence also ceases to have effect. This may cause difficulties for vendors and purchasers with properties being sold with existing tenants in sit. The onus will be on the purchaser to apply for and be granted a new licence as the landlord for each property it acquires.

If a property does not have the relevant planning, then a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) must be obtained to evidence planning, before any HMO application is made by a prospective landlord.

In order to make a CLEUD application, five years continuous use of the property must be demonstrated and proven. It will be important to have five years’ tenancy agreements and rental statements showing payments in this regard. In the alternative, a purchaser may lodge a planning application for change of use but given the over saturation of HMOs in certain areas in Northern Ireland, though there is no guarantee that planning will be granted and could be refused. This could leave a purchaser and a lender in a difficult situation.

Landlords can be prosecuted and fined if they are found to be operating an HMO without the appropriate licence and managing agents can also be prosecuted if they are complicit in the landlord’s activities.

It is therefore imperative proper advice is obtained from both a legal and planning perspective whenever a client is considering acquiring an HMO (and a lender is funding that purchase) – to ensure the property and the landlord do not fall foul of the new legislation.

Managing agents should also ensure their clients meet the HMO requirements when letting such a property on their behalf. This is a complex piece of new legislation and those dealing with residential real estate and HMOs, must familiarise themselves with it to avoid issues in the future.

By Alison Reid

Source: Irish News