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Views sought on new rules to limit spread of student houses in Brighton and Hove

A public consultation on plans to limit the number of shared houses across Brighton and Hove starts on Monday (3 June).

Brighton and Hove City Council is looking at whether to require owners of even smaller shared houses to have to seek planning permission.

At the moment, they can rely on “premitted development rights” to change their use from family homes except in five council wards.

In those five wards, planning rules are used to limit the number of new houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) through what is known as an “article 4 direction”.

The policy was introduced in St Peter’s and North Laine, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queen’s Park and Moulsecoomb and Bevendean in 2013 because of the rising number of small HMOs.

An HMO is defined as a house shared by at least three people who are not part of the same family.

In some parts of Brighton shared houses are predominantly rented by students but further from the universities they are often the first independent homes rented by young people.

Outside the five wards a small HMO – of up to six people – does not need planning permission.

The article four restrictions in Brighton and Hove also limit the number of new shared houses to 10 per cent within a 50-metre radius.

Both small and large HMOs already need a licence wherever they are in Brighton and Hove.

However, outside the five wards which are currently subject to article four directions, only bigger shared houses – of seven people or more – need planning permission.

Councillors approved the consultation process in January after a review because of growing concerns about the numbers of shared homes in East Brighton, Preston Park and Withdean wards.

Concerns were raised by people living in the Bennett Road area of East Brighton in June last year at a council meeting at Hove Town Hall.

Conservative councillor Mary Mears told the Transport, Development and Culture Committee how the issue was creeping into her Rottingdean Coastal ward.

Councillor Mears said: “It’s already happening, not going to happen, at the lower end of Rottingdean Coastal ward.

“Arundel Street and Arundel Road already have HMO problems.”

By : Sarah Booker-Lewis

Source: Brighton and Hove News

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More action needed to tackle impact of HMOs in town centre

More action needs to be taken to tackle the impact of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), according to an opposition leader in Wrexham.

Poor living conditions and rubbish being dumped in the street are among the issues which have been raised in recent years amid an influx of applications to convert properties in the town into shared homes.

Cllr Alun Jenkins, who is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Wrexham Council, said some landlords were failing in their duty to look after tenants.
He said there were almost 100 in his ward of Offa, which covers part of the town centre, some of which were causing problems for the community.

Cllr Jenkins made his comments as leading councillors met to make minor tweaks to the authority’s policy on HMO licences and fees.

The report’s main aim was to reflect the outcome of recent landmark court rulings, which require licence fees to be paid in two parts.
However, he said he would have liked to see a greater overhaul of how licences are monitored.

Speaking at the Executive Board meeting at the Guildhall, Cllr Jenkins said: “For those of us that have town centre wards, HMOs are a big issue.

“I could take you round my ward, where I’ve got approaching 100 HMOs.

“The majority of those you wouldn’t know were HMOs because they’re well run, but it’s the same ones at the bottom of the pile which keep coming up and causing problems.

“There is a need to be certain that we’re doing all we can to make sure the conditions in which people are living in HMOs are satisfactory and that we’ve got enforcement ways of dealing with all of that.”

The changes outlined included revised charges for HMO licensing fees.

The report asked members to agree to proposed payments of £100 for the recovery of costs incurred by immigration inspections and £35 per hour to landlords for providing advice on a prospective HMO.

It also requested them to remove the current enforcement charge of about £415 for hazard awareness notices from 1 April 2019.

But Cllr Jenkins questioned whether the council had enough staff to enforce against landlords who do not act responsibly.

He said: “We know the constraints there are on the department. You’re under resourced and you’ve got fewer officers than are needed to do all the enforcement that’s needed.

“There are huge issues there about how we enforce and police all of this.

“You are revising the document and it would have been nice to have the opportunity to be able to comment and suggest some other tweaks.”

In response, the authority’s deputy leader said he sympathised with the difficulties mentioned by Cllr Jenkins.

Cllr Hugh Jones (Con), who is also lead member for people, told the meeting efforts were being made to improve the quality of HMOs in the area.

He said: “Can I just say that Cllr Jenkins and I have had long discussions over the problems of HMOs in Wrexham and I’m fully aware of what they are.

“I’m fully aware of the frustrations that all of us as members have faced over the years in trying to improve the standards, because it affects people’s quality of life and it affects the whole character of wards.

“It is a hugely important and significant problem for mainly town centre, but not entirely town centre wards and members.

“All I can say to you Alun is that had there been any significant change in policy other than bringing the document up-to-date, we would have gone through a different process.”

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter

Source: Wrexham

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HMO Property Investments Booming

Many buy to let property investors are moving over to HMO property investments as they battle increasing regulation and taxation changes.

HMO property investments can offer a higher yielding option when compared to standard buy to let, and many lenders are now recognising this and offering finance products for HMO property investments.

Leeds Building Society recently announced that it is now including five-year products in its bespoke HMO mortgage range. This move came on the back of intermediary feedback that landlord clients were looking for additional five-year options for small and large HMO property investments, as growing numbers sought to diversify their portfolios and move into this sector.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are nothing new, but with affordability issues continuing to impact first-time buyers and rents sitting at high levels, it’s evident that more people are staying in accommodation such as house shares for longer, well beyond their student years.

A study into HMO property investments by broadband and utilities provider Glide looked further into house shares, highlighting that London remained the best location in terms of the variety of house share opportunities, with over 19,000 rooms available. However, with the average monthly rent six times higher than the most affordable city to live in (average rent in London was suggested to be £3,278 pcm, compared to £499 in Bradford), the capital ranked 17th overall as the best city for house sharers.

Ranking the biggest UK cities on a range of measures – including the number of house shares in the city, number of job opportunities advertised, the cost of rent, university rankings and broadband speed – Bristol came out on top. The rest of the top 10 consisted of: Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Derby, Southampton, Brighton and Hove, Leicester, and Portsmouth.

Landlords looking to venture into HMO property investments need to be fully aware of wider legislation changes as well as local licencing requirements when operating within this space. But, with increasing numbers of lending options becoming available, this is certainly an area worth considering.

Source: Residential Landlord