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Plans submitted to create new five-bedroom HMO in Connah’s Quay

Plans have been submitted which could see a three-bedroom house in Flintshire converted into five bedsits.

The application would see the use of the property on Howard Street in Connahs Quay change to become a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

A letter submitted on behalf of the landlord states the proposals have been put forward due to the need for small housing units in the area.

Although concerns have previously been raised in Flintshire regarding the impact of HMOs, planning consultant Adrian Thompson said the development would make “efficient use” of the house.

He said: “The change in use safeguards the living conditions of neighbours and the character of the area.

“Granting permission will not lead to proliferation of HMOs in the area, because this is the only known HMO on Howard Street, and the nearest known HMOs are on another street. It is a semi-detached property.

“The original internal layout has been retained, with the first floor as it was and on the ground floor the lounge and sitting room re-purposed as bedrooms.

“The ground floor retains the kitchen, dining room, a downstairs toilet and a shower room.”
Questions have been raised in the past by councillors regarding the living standards provided to tenants in HMOs.

According to the documents, the smallest bedroom at the property measures 8.2 square metres, which is below the amount suggested by Flintshire Council in an advice note to developers.

But as the guidance has yet to be adopted formally, Mr Thompson said the indication that living quarters should measure at least ten square metres would carry little weight.

Comments are currently being invited on the application via the local authority’s website.
Planning officials are aiming to make a decision towards the end of June, but timescales are currently delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

By Liam Randall

Source: Deeside

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Increased HMO charges ‘should not be passed onto students’ says Fife Council

There is no need for any increase in charges for HMO (house of multiple occupancy) licenses to be passed on to students who are concerned about rent rises, Fife Council has reiterated.

Every HMO needs a licence to make sure health and safety standards are met for residents. The council has recently updated the charging structure for licenses, bringing it into line with other local authorities, and making sure the increasing costs of administering the system were not passed on to taxpayers. Fees have not been increased since 2006.

John Mills, Fife Council’s head of housing services, said: “Any suggestion that the council is somehow responsible for a rise in student rents is just scaremongering.

“Based on current figures, the University charges £21,000 for an individual student over three years. Our HMO fee for one student in that time (in an HMO of five people) is under £300. My understanding is that St Andrews University charges one of the highest residential fees in Scotland. There has to be some perspective here.”

Mr Mills added: “The new charging structure now covers the full cost of the HMO licensing service, including administration, property inspections and verification, democracy and compliance costs. We’ve moved from a flat-based fee structure to one that takes account of the number of occupants in an HMO, and the resources spent on each application through a sliding scale of charges.

“There should be no suggestion that this will lead to rent rises for students. Any rises in rent are at the discretion of the University, and there is nothing to suggest that a rise in the fees the council charges for HMO licenses should be passed on to students. Any charges are a very small proportion of the rental income received by HMO owners.

“I would urge any parents or students who are concerned about a potential rise in rents to raise this directly with the University, as the organisation deciding how much should be charged for student housing.”

Source: Scottish Housing News

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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

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Plans to turn Wrexham family home into HMO approved on appeal

Plans to turn a family home on the edge of Wrexham town centre into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) have been approved on appeal.

Councillors originally rejected proposals to convert the house on Salop Road into five bedsits in September because of the large number of similar properties nearby.

They said it would breach council guidelines which state the maximum amount of HMOs allowed within a 50 metre radius of any given location should be no more than ten per cent.

Permitting the application would have increased the concentration of bedsits in the area to 16 per cent.

However, their decision has now been overturned by an inspector appointed by the Welsh Government following a successful appeal.

In a report, Hywel Wyn Jones said he could find no proof of the planning committee’s claims that the scheme would have a negative social impact.

He said: “There is no substantive evidence before me to indicate that the existing presence of HMOs in this mixed-use part of the town is causing an over concentration that is affecting the social fabric or residential amenity of the community, nor that the scheme would be likely to create such problems.

“My visit did not reveal any of the physical manifestations that can arise from such developments, such as high numbers of letting signs, unkempt frontages, or household waste strewn along the street.

“As the ten per cent threshold is one provided in guidance to assist decision makers, it should not be slavishly followed as though it were an absolute limit.

“The mixed-use character of this edge of town centre location reinforces my view in this respect.

“Thus, on this main issue I conclude that the proposed use would not be harmful to the social fabric or residential amenity of the host community.”

The plans were also refused on the grounds it would cause an increase in demand for parking on the street, adding to existing problems.

While Mr Wyn Jones acknowledged there was pressure on the amount of spaces, he concluded the scheme would not give rise to an additional demand.

He added: “None of the matters raised in objection to the scheme lead me away from finding that it is acceptable.

“I shall therefore allow the appeal subject to the conditions suggested by the council and one to deal with cycle storage.”

By Liam Randall

Source: Wrexham

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New charges for houses in multiple occupation in Coventry – what it means

Action to tackle irresponsible landlords has half-succeeded at Coventry council after one of two schemes was passed by councillors.

A city-wide ‘additional licensing’ scheme was approved at full council on Tuesday, January 14, but ward-specific ‘selective licensing’ came to a halt after it was voted down to allow for further investigations.

The new additional licensing policy will focus on houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

The scheme is likely to impact a number of student homes, which the council hopes to reduce through the introduction of more purpose-built student blocks.

Under additional licensing, a landlord who has been operating an unlicensed HMO could pay £1,250 for a one-year licence; £1,055 could be charged for a one-year licence if they are not listed as part of the council’s ‘proactive enforcement regime’; £705 for a two-year licence; £640 for a five-year licence; and £545 for a renewal.

Selective licensing would have been in certain wards, although councillors voted it down after citing an upcoming selective licensing review from the government and ‘out-of-date’ data from a 2011 census which was used to determine the areas the new scheme would fall into.

In consultation, landlords also claimed it added ‘unnecessary financial burden’ and could lead to increased costs being passed onto tenants.

Both schemes were planned to hold landlords to account and help set and maintain minimum standards across the city.

Combined the schemes would have introduced fees potentially worth thousands of pounds on landlords.

Around a dozen councillors were forced to leave the meeting and not take part in the vote as they are landlords themselves.

Cabinet member responsible Cllr Tariq Khan said the selective licensing scheme will be revisited once the government’s review has been published, while his deputy Cllr David Welsh welcomed the new additional licensing.

Cllr Welsh said: “This is probably one of the biggest steps this council has taken to improve the quality of housing in many years.

“Members will be aware what HMOs have done to the quality of housing across the city and the issues they have created.

“I look forward to working with the good landlords we have in the city and I’m very aware there’s many who do take responsibility for the properties they own and manage them well.

“But this scheme will tackle those who fail to do this, people who seek to invest in the city in terms of owning a property but don’t want to be responsible for the state of the properties and the behaviour of the tenants within.

“This scheme will give the council power to put conditions on the licence in terms of the quality of accommodation and others that we have not been able to do until now. That will make a big difference.”

Additional licensing requires all owners of HMOs that are occupied by three or four tenants and all converted self-contained flats that are wholly tenanted to apply to the council for a HMO licence.

Selective licensing would have required owners of rented properties in designated areas to apply and pay for a property licence and pass a ‘fit and proper person’ test.

Additional licensing will come into force on May 4 for a period of five years.

By Tom Davis

Source: Coventry Telegraph

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HMO conversions for 3 to 6 people will require planning approval from June 2020

A citywide direction on houses in multiple occupation (HMO) will be introduced by Birmingham City Council from 8 June 2020.

The Article 4 direction will mean that planning approval is required for the conversion of a family house to an HMO accommodating between three and six people. Current planning rules only require planning approval for properties larger than this.

The direction will be supported by a proposed new planning policy set out within the Development Management in Birmingham document, which is subject to a six-week public consultation period from 9 January 2020. The consultation will close at 5pm on Friday 21st February 2020.

An existing direction for this purpose is already in force in Selly Oak, Harborne and Edgbaston and has been successful in limiting the growth of HMOs in those areas.

Ahead of the direction coming into force, landlords are being advised to declare existing HMOs to the council. Any existing HMOs declared after that date are likely to require a retrospective planning application or a certificate of lawful use, both of which will incur a charge. New HMOs created after 8 June 2020 will require a planning application.

Councillor Sharon Thompson, Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, said: “Shared accommodation or houses in multiple occupation provide an important way of meeting the city’s housing needs. However, high concentrations of HMOs can have a negative impact on the character of neighbourhoods and create unbalanced communities.

“This direction will enable the council to manage the growth of HMOs across the city more effectively as any new proposals will be assessed in line with planning policies.”

Further information about the city-wide direction and the process for declaring existing HMOs can be found at www.birmingham.gov.uk/hmoarticle4

By Kyle Moore

Source: Birmingham Updates

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Armley Park Road HMO application withdrawn

An application to convert a four-bedroomed house in Armley Park Road into a six-bedroomed house of multiple occupation (HMO) has been withdrawn, writes Keely Bannister.

According to a notice issued by Leeds City Council, the application was withdrawn following an e-mail from Michael Sunderland from DMS Architecture Ltd, who is the development’s agent.

Details of the e-mail has not been made publicly available.

Mr Carpenter lodged the application with Leeds City Council in July, with the notice to withdraw being placed in December.

The proposed development would have involved the lowering of the properties basement floor and the conversion of this space from storage into a living room and en-suite bedroom.

The ground floor living room would also have been converted into a bedroom.

As reported previously in The Dispatch, objections were lodged against the application with other residents on the street stating that the property was being “kept in a state of disrepair” and that the road is “already packed full of cars” which “packing in more renting tenants” wouldn’t improve.

Consultation was sought from the Canal and River Trust, who had no comment to make and the council’s Highways Team, who had no objection to the application, subject to a number of conditions around cycle and bin storage being met.

Source: West Leeds Dispatch

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Bid to turn Wrexham town centre house into HMO refused over parking issues

A bid to create a house in multiple occupation (HMO) near Wrexham town centre has been thrown out because of fears it will added to parking issues.

Proposals to turn a three-bedroom house on Oxford Street, which is close to Eagles Meadow shopping centre, into five bedsits were originally submitted in October.

Objections were raised ahead of the application being considered by councillors on Monday as a result of the lack of parking spaces on the road.

Local councillor Adrienne Jeorrett said the situation had become so bad that one resident who lives on the street was forced to return their disability car.

Addressing Wrexham Council’s planning committee, she said: “Whilst I accept the need for low cost housing, it’s a great disappointment to me that in 2019 adults are having to live in one room with a long term impact on health and wellbeing.

“In Oxford Street and the surrounding roads parking is a major problem for residents. This proposed HMO will add to that problem.

“To say that Oxford Street is near town does not mean that residents work in town.

“It does not mean that someone does not need a car, especially if they work somewhere where public transport no longer reaches.

“One resident in this street has already had to send back a disability car because they couldn’t park in the street.”

The local authority’s chief planning officer had recommended the scheme should be given the go ahead.

In a report, Lawrence Isted disputed claims that it would make the parking situation worse as the property was located close to the town’s bus and railway stations.

But the council’s highways department backed refusal because of the “significant” demand for parking in the area.

Highway development control engineer Peter Douthwaite said: “We’ve looked at it and the proposal is deemed to be increasing the level of parking requirement in an area already suffering from parking problems.

“We think it should be refused due to lack of parking provision.”

Councillors unanimously voted to reject the proposals at the end of the debate.

By Liam Randall

Source: Wrexham