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Councillors aim to examine Wrexham’s licensing of houses in multiple occupation to review local standards

Calls for councillors to scrutinise the licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) across Wrexham have been made.

A topic request form signed by Holt councillor Michael Morris and Smithfield councillor Adrienne Jeorrett has been submitted for consideration by members of the homes and environment scrutiny committee.

It states that: “For some time members have expressed concern over the quality, appropriateness and size of accommodation which is offered to individuals residing in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and which is controlled by the licensing regime rather than through the planning process.”

Such concerns over the size of accommodation and amenity space provided in some HMO proposals have been raised numerous times over the years by councillors and planning committee members.

Speaking about plans to convert a property on the outskirts of the town into a HMO last December, Cllr Jeorrett said it was a “great disappointment that adults are having to live in one room with a long term impact on health and wellbeing.”

As part of the work looking into the licensing of HMOs, it is suggested that scrutiny “undertake a review of how the current standards were arrived at” and if they are nationally prescribed or determined locally.

It also proposes that the committee:

– Compare with other Local Authorities to establish if our standards are more or less generous than others and if they need reviewing.
– Consider the issue of bed spaces versus bedrooms and occupancy numbers.
– Consider how to ensure that HMOs offer a reasonable standard of accommodation by providing rooms of an adequate size for the number of occupants and reasonable communal living areas/ circulation space.
– Establish if there need to have differing standards for the various types of HMO eg. those that primarily house contractors who are working in the area and those that are conventionally let to tenants – (the former having a much greater parking need)
– Possibly look at a “Landlords Charter” on how they will deal with complaints

It is hoped that the scrutiny committee will help “remove the tensions between determining planning applications and and the licensing regime for HMOs” – along with “ensuring a better quality of accommodation for the tenants” and “reducing the tensions with the adjoining community neighbours”.

It is estimated that the topic will take four months to be examined by scrutiny members.

Previously in 2017 we have reported how there has been concerns that there is a lack of staff due to council cuts for inspections, as well as the implication there could well be a large number of unregistered HMO’s out there.

At the time we reported, “Detail was given to the meeting over the five year inspection periods, with an officer explaining that although the five years is the maximum mandatory inspection period, HMOs that are of concern could be inspected much more regularly such as six monthly. Lead Member for Housing, Cllr D J Griffiths, did point out that it was a chicken and egg situation at times as without investigating properties the council would not know of any issues to deal with, but without the staff to do so then investigations may not be as frequent” and “More detail was given on work done to locate unregistered HMOs, including: “There are probably more HMOs than are legally registered, but it is finding them is the challenge. We look at various sources, council tax bills, housing benefit information, or even looking on the internet to see what is to let locally.”

Source: Wrexham

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Edinburgh landlord stripped of HMO licence but maintains Airbnb listing

An Edinburgh landlord has been stripped of his HMO licence after he caused flooding to a neighbour’s property, but he has been allowed to continue to use the property as an Airbnb.

Edinburgh City Council’s licensing sub-committee refused Mr Tahir Ali’s renewed HMO application for his flat on Clerk Street after councillors heard complaints over flooding and anti-social behaviour, all whilst building work was carried out on the property without proper permissions.

Catherine Scanlin, the council’s licensing manager, told councillors that the objection, by Graham Muir, was due to a “breakdown in the relationship with the owner of the property” and that there “seems to be a history of flooding into another property”.

Mr Muir, who runs a laundry cafe below the flat, said that as many as 11 people stayed in the flat at any one time, despite having a capacity of just five.

It was also confirmed by building standards officers that en-suite showers had been installed in the flat “without permission” after a building warrant application was refused.

Mr Muir told the Edinburgh Evening News: “The shop has been flooded on a number of occasions. The ceiling caved in and it’s now propped up with scaffolding. It’s a complete disaster. There are people coming and going all the time, there are junkies that get in. He refuses to help – he’s just not bothered. He’s not a responsible person – it’s a ghost hostel.”

A ghost hostel or hotel is where an unsupervised property has each room let out individually without adhering to regulations required by law.

Mr Ali argued that Mr Muir “has had it in for me since day one” and insists on “sticking his nose into everybody else’s business except his own”.

Mr Ali did admit that he shouldn’t have carried out the work on his property without securing permission. He said: “Applications have been submitted. In hindsight I should have waited but because the workmen were in place, I carried on. Nothing is illegal, everything is above board. I offered to do his ceiling up and he said he didn’t want my ‘cowboys’ going in there.”

He added: “It’s not a hostel, it’s a HMO – it always has been. The current situation is that it’s let as an Airbnb holiday let. There have never been 11 people, not to my knowledge – and I manage the premises.”

The property currently has one permanent resident, while the remainder is let out as Airbnb-style short term lets.

Licensing officials told Mr Ali that he does not need any planning permission to operate as an Airbnb.

Source: Scottish Housing News

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Plans for seven-bedroom HMO in Broughton backed for approval despite widespread opposition

Plans to turn a family home into a seven-bedroom House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) have been backed for approval despite widespread opposition.

About 50 objections have been submitted against proposals to convert the current three-bedroom property on Larne Drive in Broughton.

It comes amid concerns from residents that it would have a negative impact on the neighbourhood and lead to parking problems.

Broughton Community Council and local councillor Billy Mullin have also voiced strong criticism.

However, the application has been recommended to receive the green light by Flintshire Council’s chief planning officer.

In a report set to go before councillors next week, Andrew Farrow said the scheme was acceptable because it was in a residential area.

He said: “The dwelling is located within a row of similar properties upon a modern residential estate.

“Given the above, it is considered that the built nature of the proposal will not have a significant detrimental impact upon the character and appearance of the existing dwelling or streetscene in which it is located.

“There is a concern that the increased residential use of the HMO, would leave to an increase in the parking requirements above what would reasonably expected of a private dwelling.

“The proposed parking provision submitted shows the front of the property will accommodate three cars clear of the highway.

“A condition is imposed to ensure that the parking provision is provided and maintained on site, in perpetuity.”

It’s not the first time plans for a HMO in Broughton have caused controversy.

In December 2018, proposals to create bedsits on Gladstone Road were approved on appeal, despite originally being refused by the local authority following a protest by neighbours.

Worries have been raised that the latest scheme could lead to a rise in anti-social behaviour, but Mr Farrow said such claims had not been proven.

He said: “Concerns have been expressed that the proposals would cause noise/disturbance with the extensions also adversely affecting light and privacy upon existing neighbouring occupiers.
“Some of these concerns and fears relate to the future occupants of the development.

“Concerns that tenants could cause these problems are not unique to HMOs and there is no evidence to substantiate this is the case.

“Anti-social behaviour could equally apply to other forms of residential occupation.

“It is considered that all of the matters in the consideration of this proposal are acceptable and that planning permission should be granted.”

Proposals to extend the property to provide extra accommodation were approved in October last year.

The most recent application will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s planning committee at County Hall in Mold on Wednesday.

By Liam Randall

Source: Deeside