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Firms on HMO register named after Freedom of Information challenge

FIRMS and organisations responsible for hundreds of multiple-occupancy homes across Northern Ireland have been named for the first time after a year-long Freedom of Information challenge.

For more than a decade the Housing Executive (NIHE) has maintained a list of the properties in the north registered as Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

The published HMO register lists information including the addresses of the properties, but does not show who is in charge of them.

However, NIHE has now disclosed the more than 200 public organisations in charge of HMOs – naming them in respect of each property.

It reveals firms and organisations control almost a quarter of all HMOs in Northern Ireland.

HMOs are generally properties let to three or more people from two or more different families.

Of the 5,790 HMOs registered in the north, companies and organisations are responsible for 1,341 which represents almost 11,000 permitted occupants.

Choice Housing has the most HMOs with 202 properties holding 1,402 people, followed by JHT UUJ Ltd with 118 properties covering 590 occupants, and Queen’s University Belfast with 111 properties and 2,100 occupants.

The details were disclosed to The Irish News following a complaint in June last year to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

NIHE had refused to disclose details in relation to all properties on the HMO register.

However, following discussions with the ICO, the housing body agreed to release information on HMOs run by firms and organisations and withhold details of HMOs run by individuals.

Nicola McCrudden, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), welcomed the publication of the list.

“HMOs are generally a more affordable housing option for a variety of groups including students and migrant workers. They also tend to house some of the most vulnerable in society with multiple needs beyond housing,” she said.

“Due to the shared nature of this housing, HMOs are considered to be higher risk and regulation is necessary to ensure residents’ homes are safe.”

Ms McCrudden said they “welcome this transparency” for firms, but said extending it to individual landlords remains divisive.

She said social housing landlords are regulated and their names are publicly available, and “given that the private rented sector is now larger there is a clear argument that transparency should be extended”.

But she added: “Making individual landlords’ contact details publicly available is a contentious issue.

“We recognise the safety concerns expressed by some landlords, particularly those with larger portfolios.

“However, this must be balanced against the needs of tenants who may not have their landlords’ contact details.

“The HMO Act 2016 is yet to be implemented due to no Executive in place, but is intended as an update on the management and regulation of HMOs including mandatory licensing – whether or not ownership details will appear public register remains unclear.”

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:: The 15 firms and organisations in charge of the most HMOs in Northern Ireland

Company – Number of properties – Number of permitted occupants

1. Choice Housing Ireland Ltd – 202 – 1,402

2. JHT UUJ Ltd – 118 – 590

3. Queen’s University Belfast – 111 – 2,100

4. University Partnership Programme – 65 – 412

5. University of Ulster – 60 – 402

6. SOBE Developments Ltd – 52 – 231

7. Triangle Housing Association Ltd – 43 – 214

8. Lanyon Jersey Propco Ltd – 42 – 322

9. Silverline Developments Ltd – 40 – 164

10. Croob Properties Ltd – 30 – 282

11. Apex Housing Association Ltd – 29 – 517

12. Radius Housing Ltd – 26 – 376

13. Nexus Property Services, Rentals and Management – 18 – 93

14. Craigowen Housing Association Ltd – 17 – 177

15. Oakdene Properties Limited – 17 – 90

Source: Irish News