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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

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HMO plans for former bar and hotel submitted for a second time

Plans to turn a bar and hotel on the outskirts of town into a HMO have been resubmitted, despite being rejected last month.

The proposals for the former Soul Suite and Albion Hotel in Pen y Bryn include converting the three storeys into 11 bedrooms.

This would include four bedrooms on the ground floor, along with a living / dining room and toilet and shower facilities. A further three bedrooms and a communal kitchen area would be on the second floor and four bedrooms with en suite facilities on the fourth floor.

It is the second time such plans have been put forward for the building, with the applicants stating earlier this year that despite the ground floor being advertised to let since 2017, they had received little interest.

At the time the applicants said the development is “within close proximity to the town centre, public transport links, shops, a primary school and various bars and restaurants, which will also less residents’ reliance on cars.

“Based on the above assessment, we believe that the proposal will not have a detrimental affect on the parking around the vicinity of the proposed development site.”

However last month Wrexham.com reported that Lawrence Isted, the council’s chief officer of planning and regulatory had refused the application via a delegated decision.

In his findings, Mr Isted said that the development would be contrary to planning policy. However he added that the council would look “more favourably upon a less intensive scheme which retains the commercial use on the ground floor and creates quality residential apartments on the upper floors, more in keeping with the Pen y Bryn mixed use regeneration area.”

The resubmitted application will be considered for approval at a later date.

Source: Wrexham

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Wrexham Council accused of being reluctant to approve HMO proposals

Wrexham Council has been accused of being reluctant to allow any more houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) to be created in the county.

It follows the rejection of plans to turn a family home on Salop Road into five bedsits because of the large number of similar properties nearby.

A number of concerns have been raised by both councillors and residents about problems arising from HMOs in recent years, such as an increased demand on parking and rubbish being left piled up on streets.

A planning inspector has also highlighted how they are making the main Mold Road gateway into Wrexham a less attractive place to live.

Planning agent Bob Dewey, who is acting on behalf of the landlord behind the latest proposals, said he acknowledged some of the issues raised.

However, he claimed there was a need for low cost accommodation in the area and criticised the small amount of HMOs being approved by the local authority.

In the appeal documents, he said: “There is a strong feeling that the council does not wish to permit any further HMOs.

“Tragically, the term HMO seems to have become has become a term of condemnation.

“Local people and planning councillors seem to have associated such a use with bad management by owners and anti-social behaviours by the occupiers.

“There is no doubt an element of truth in this concern, but experience appears to suggest that problems mainly arise from properties run by institutional operators and absentee landlords.

“The appellant is a local man anxious to provide a good service to people who require this type of accommodation.

“It is not in his interest to let the property in a manner which would create problems for him or for the locality or his neighbours.”

In refusing the application, the council said the proposed development would result in an over concentration of HMOs within the area.

The authority’s guidelines set out a maximum of ten per cent of bedsits within a 50 metre radius of any given location.

It also said the plans would cause an increase in demand for parking on the street, adding to existing problems.

In response, Mr Dewey said the one parking space outlined would be sufficient as he claimed most people living in the property would not own a car.

The appeal will be decided by an inspector appointed by the Welsh Government at a later date.

By Liam Randall

Source: Wrexham

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Landlord Company Fined For State Of Rental Property

A landlord company based in Ripley has been fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs as a result of the poor state of a rental property in Kirkby that is owned by the company.

In a visit to the Kirkby rental property, deemed an HMO (house of multiple occupation) by Mansfield District Council officers on April 1st, they found ‘inadequate’ fire doors that were blocked, an ‘unfinished’ wall in a ground floor bedroom, an electricity meter in a bedroom, and damaged windows that wouldn’t close properly.

In a hearing at Mansfield Magistrates Court on October 23rd, John Cotton admitted the three breaches of regulations, on behalf of his landlord company, JP Cotton, which is registered to Devonshire Avenue, Ripley.

Helen Lees, speaking on behalf of the landlord company, said it was ‘a difficult situation with difficult tenants and it was very difficult to turn a profit’.

Confirming that it was not a large corporate landlord company, she said: ‘This is a company which accepts its standards have slipped. It has operated with one property for a long time. Mr Cotton, or the landlord company, would like to sell it.’

The court also heard that the property is now being rented to a single family and is no longer a house of multiple occupation (HMO), and therefore no longer subject to the same strict regulations.

However, district judge at Mansfield Magistrates Court, Jonathan Taaffe said: ‘This landlord company has a responsibility under its statutory obligations.

‘It’s clear, notwithstanding the difficulties of the types of tenants who were in this property, these obligations weren’t met.’

The landlord company, JP Cotton Ltd, was fined £6,000 for the three breaches of regulations, and t was also ordered to pay £2,235 in costs and a £171 government surcharge, which must be paid by April 2020.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Plans to increase capacity of HMO refused amid parking and litter concerns

Plans to increase the capacity of a house in multiple occupation (HMO) on the outskirts of Wrexham town centre have been rejected because of concerns over parking and litter.

An application was entered in May to increase the amount of residents able to live at a property on Beechley Road in Hightown from six to eight.

It came as owner Andrew Shield said he wanted to allow couples to live in two of the rooms to meet the demand for accommodation in the area.

The scheme was given the backing of Wrexham Council’s chief planning officer ahead of a meeting on Monday to decide the plans.

However, members of the local authority’s planning committee refused permission after being told about the lack of parking and issues with overspilling bins on the street, which is already home to several HMOs.

Speaking at Wrexham’s Guildhall, local councillor Graham Rogers said: “The proposed development would result in an over-concentration to the detriment of the social fabric of the area.

“Beechley Road currently has six HMOs within a 50-metre radius, and I consider the likelihood that the proposed suggestion to increase from six to eight occupants will result in an increase in parking demands.

“For those reasons I am requesting that the approval be refused for the proposed development, which does not make adequate provision for the parking of vehicles.

“The current HMO on Beechley Road carries an increase in the amount of refuse with bins being overused, resulting in litter over spilling onto the footpaths and carriageway. On most weekends I’m having to clear litter with the aid of the community payback team.”

Members of the Beechley Road Residents’ Association also wrote to planning committee members to highlight issues with noise from the HMO properties.

It came after they previously campaigned against a separate bedsit application on the same street.

The latest scheme was recommended for approval by the council’s chief planning officer, who said it was unlikely to lead to an increased demand for parking spaces.

In his report Lawrence Isted said: “I have considered the concerns of the residents in regard to parking and noise nuisance.

“With regard to parking, I appreciate that there are a significant number of vehicles that park on the carriageway with no provision for parking on site.

“Highways have no objections to the proposed development on the grounds that the proposed development is unlikely to result in parking demand compared with its current residential use.

“Noise nuisance can be addressed by public protection.”

Despite his recommendation, councillors chose to refuse permission because of the impact on parking with 15 votes against the plans and two abstentions.

By Liam Randall

Source: Wrexham

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Council to launch public consultation on HMO licensing scheme in Worcester

COUNCILLORS will “consider options” on proposals to amend an HMO licensing scheme for Worcester City.

At a communities committee meeting on October 30, city councillors in Worcester discussed a proposal to approve a 12-week public consultation to extend the HMO scheme in the city.

There are currently HMOs in every ward in Worcester with the exception of St Peter’s, and the licensing scheme would aim to crack down on rogue landlords and improve standards.

Councillors discussed applying the scheme to the parts of Worcester where it was more necessary and where there were more HMOs, but Cllr Richard Udall said the scheme needed to be enforced across the whole city, saying: “I am a bit shocked and surprised at what is being said here. More regulation means more protection. Lowering standards is an invitation to rogue landlords to come into areas where there is no protection.”

The Worcester City Additional Licensing Scheme runs for five years, at the end of which the Council is required to review the scheme with a view to re-designation or discontinuation.

Property standards in HMOs can often be lower than other rented properties due to poor conversions of older properties, more than one household living independently of each other, regular turn over of occupiers and in some cases poor management by the landlord.

The aim of licensing is to ensure these properties meet the legal standards and are properly managed to provide greater protection to the health, safety and welfare of the people living there.

According to the city council’s report: “The implications of moving to an Additional Licensing scheme which is targeted at specific wards would be that City-wide improvements to private housing would not be sustained but that instead a targeted approach could be taken to problem areas.”

The committee agreed to send out the consultation and amended the reports recommendations so that they will make the final decision on whether to declare the scheme, rather than the corporate director for homes and communities along with the chair and vice char of the committee.

In March 2015, Worcester City Council’s cabinet approved an Additional HMO Licensing scheme for the whole City, which came into effect later that year. Accreditation of HMOs had previously been in place but because it was a voluntary scheme, it was not taken up by the majority of landlords.

By Tom Banner

Source: Hereford Times

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Plans for shared house in Brighton attract opposition

Neighbours have the support of their area’s councillors in opposing plans for a shared house.

St Peter’s and North Laine councillors Pete West and Lizzie Deane sent a joint letter against plans to turn a four-bedroom house into a five-bedroom shared house or HMO (house in multiple occupation) in Crescent Road.

The plans are recommended for approval when they go before Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee next week.

In their 25 letters of objection, neighbours raised concerns about the number of shared houses in the Roundhill area, as well as noise from the roof terrace and the loss of a family home.

Crescent Road is in an area where limits are placed on new HMOs.

No more than 10 per cent of homes within a 50-metre radius of any proposed HMO should already be a shared house.

Calculations by the council show that there are 84 properties within 50 metres and seven of these are shared houses, under the limit.

One anonymous neighbour’s objection said: “The property is in a conservation area and adding more residents and a roof terrace would detract from the character of the area, which is one of single dwelling houses. The conversion to HMO does nothing to enhance the conservation area.

“Many family homes in Brighton have been lost to similar HMO conversion, and this would reduce the supply of much-needed family homes.”

Another objection said: “Crescent Road is already oversubscribed with HMOs.

“The proposed roof terrace is inappropriate and not in keeping with the conservation area. It also constitutes a noise nuisance to the neighbours and surrounding area.”

Councillor West wrote: “The HMO density in Crescent Road is already approaching saturation and this HMO cannot therefore be permitted.

“I note it has been pointed out that not all existing HMOs in Crescent Road have been recognised on the map.

“Questions have also been raised over the adequacy of provision for refuse storage and impact on parking and traffic in the area.

“I believe this proposal will adversely affect the Conservation Area, have a detrimental effect on property value, impact residential amenity by increasing noise (and) represent overdevelopment.”

The Roundhill Society also objected, saying: “Numbers 26 (and) 28a Crescent Road already are operating as HMOs.

“If 22 Crescent Road is allowed, then the family living in 24 Crescent Road will be ‘sandwiched’ within a row of HMOs with all the noise and negative impact on family life (that) a large student occupied house would have.

“This would be entirely inappropriate. The density of HMOs in this area is already excessive.”

The Planning Committee is due to meet next Wednesday (6 November) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to start at 2pm and should be open to the public.

By Sarah Booker-Lewis

Source: Brighton And Hove News

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Five reasons to consider including an HMO property in a portfolio

It’s hard to think of a time when landlords have faced such an uncertain playing field as today.

A raft of regulation and taxation changes have had a significant impact on bottom lines, whilst the market has slowed as we wait and see what the impact of Brexit will be.

Unsurprisingly then, landlords have been looking for alternative ways to increase yields as well as diversify their portfolio to minimise any potential risk.

For many, HMOs have been one such way.

The number of landlords who have gone down this route already speaks for itself: the BVA BDRC’s latest survey shows that one in five landlords now have an HMO property in their portfolio.

Knowing this, it’s highly likely that brokers will be facing an increase in enquiries from landlords considering diversifying into HMOs and wanting to know the considerations to factor in.

Higher yields

The well-publicised advantage of HMOs is that rental yields are often higher than for a typical rental property.

The same BVA BDRC research suggests the average yield for an HMO is one-fifth higher.

For example, a landlord taking in nearly £12,800 in rent each year for an HMO, compared to £10,750 for a standard property.

Before we get carried away, we should remember that costs are also likely to be higher than a standard rental property.

An HMO license can range considerably from under £100 to over £1,000 depending on the property location.

Work may be needed on the property to ensure that it is compliant with regulation.

This could involve ensuring bedrooms are a minimum size, providing the right number and location of bathrooms or even extending the kitchen worktop.

Day to day, the potential higher turnover of tenants and more intensive use also means higher costs in terms of maintenance.

It’s important to do your sums but if costs can be kept reasonably low, yields can still be good.

Rental voids have less impact

Letting each room individually, inevitably involves more work at the start due to vetting each individual tenant when they move in but careful investigation at the start will pay off when it comes to them moving out.

When a tenant moves out of a single let property, there’s a total loss of income but with a multi-let property, the remaining rooms remain tenanted therefore limiting total impact.

Less exposure to arrears

The same ‘eggs in multiple baskets’ logic applies to arrears. Having several sources of income – with tenants paying smaller monthly rents for a room within a property – a landlord is less exposed if a tenant falls behind on their rent.

In the current economic climate, with fears of a downturn post-Brexit and potential job losses being bandied around, this potential benefit might sit well with some landlords.

Tax advantages

One difference between HMOs and single-let properties is the potential to claim income tax relief on qualifying items.

This applies to the costs associated within the communal areas, which are treated as an expense of the rental business.

Normal rental losses are only rolled forward for offset against future rental properties.

However, capital allowances can be offset against non-property income to generate tax rebates, which could add up to a significant amount.

However it’s important not to advise on any tax related questions yourself, always point your clients towards a professional tax adviser.

There is a need for flexible, affordable housing

Keeping costs affordable for your target audience is particularly important as you want to try and attract long term tenants rather than a series of short-term lets.

Renting is popular with students, young professionals, mobile workers and single people so keep this mind.

The private rented sector as a whole has doubled since 2000, and now accounts for one fifth of all homes in Great Britain.

With the rising cost of living, particularly in cities, combined with population growth and a shortage of affordable housing, HMOs or “house shares” could help to fix the problems we face in the housing market.

HMOs offer a far cheaper alternative to renting an entire property by enabling tenants to split household bills, while allowing them the privacy of their own bedroom.

In this shifting market, brokers’ advice is likely to be valued even more by landlords. This area of the market requires brokers to stay one step ahead, always on the lookout for any regulatory changes and trends.

By Adrian Moloney

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Objections To Turn Former Scarborough Care Home Into HMO

A proposal to turn a former care home in Scarborough into a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) has provoked reaction from local residents.

More than 70 people have objected to plans from Artz Ltd to convert Harewood House at 47 West Street into a property to house up to 30 people.

The objectors are concerned about the number of HMOs in the area and also about the increase in parking and traffic it could bring.

Fantasia Leisure Ltd, which would manage the HMO if it were to be granted permission, says in its supporting information that overseas workers would be housed in the building.

It adds:

“Fantasia currently is inundated with inquiries for working people from overseas looking for accommodation in Scarborough.”

The company added that it had recently been asked if it could find accommodation for 200 workers in the area.

A number of the objectors, in their letters to the council, bring up the case of the Breece, a former hotel in West Street that later became an HMO.

In 2014 a court ordered the closure of the Breece following more than 50 anti-social behavior complaints and allegations of stabbings and rape at the premises.

One objector wrote:

“The Breece was a sizeable HMO and subsequent amendments were made to the relevant section of the Local Plan to provide powers to restrict the size of HMOs and control their location to avoid ‘clustering’.

It was deemed appropriate that the maximum number [of occupants] should be 10. The proposed number of occupants for Harewood House greatly exceeds this number.

Furthermore, such a development would greatly increase the number of HMO buildings and occupants in this area. The proposed site is close to three existing HMOs, the largest of which has made an application to significantly increase its numbers.”

Scarborough Civic Society has also objected to the plans, saying that, if granted, the number of tenants in HMOs in the area would double. It adds that it would also detract from the character of the Conservation Area.

The Harewood House care home closed in 2017 and despite two auctions being held no buyer has yet been found to take over the property.

By Carl Gavaghan

Source: Yorkshire Coast Radio

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Huge number of HMOs have no licence and are illegal, says new research

There is a non-compliance rate of 75% in unlicensed HMOs in London.

Research conducted by the private consultancy London Property Licensing for trade body safeagent – formerly NALS – has found over 130,000 unlicensed properties which should be licensed under mandatory, selective or licensing schemes.

The research, carried out through Freedom of Information requests, found there are over 310,000 private rented properties in London that require licensing.

However, non-compliance in the capital is rife.

Licence applications have been submitted for only 25% of the 138,500 private rented properties that require licensing.

Without a licence application submitted, these properties are being operated illegally and landlords and/or agents can face prosecution or a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

The landlord can also be ordered to repay up to 12 months rent.

Since October 2018, the mandatory HMO licensing scheme has applied to most HMOs shared by five or more people whereas it was previously restricted to properties three or more storeys in height.

In some boroughs, additional licensing schemes have extended licensing to properties rented to just three or four unrelated people.

The picture for selective licensing is markedly different, according to the research.

These schemes extend licensing to all private rented properties including single family lets within a certain geographical area.

Licence applications have been submitted for 85% of the 173,000 private rented properties that require licensing under selective licensing schemes in London– a non-compliance rate of 15%.

Added to the confusion over licensable properties, many London boroughs are struggling to process over 24,000 licence applications.

Currently, about 40% of boroughs still rely on paper applications.

Safeagent is calling for a simpler, more streamlined licensing process.

Safeagent CEO Isobel Thomson said: “The results of the survey are concerning.

“Consumers are not being well served and indeed many are being placed at risk through this mish-mash of licensing schemes.

“Right now, the system isn’t fit for purpose and councils are drowning in paperwork.

“Landlords needing property licences are either deliberately evading the schemes or are in the dark concerning their legal responsibilities, and tenants are being placed at risk.

“If the compliance rate for HMO licensing schemes is only 25%, how can these schemes be effective?

“Isn’t it time we went back to the drawing board to come up with a simple, streamlined system that works for all?”

By ROSALIND RENSHAW

Source: Property Industry Eye