The Government must make changes to housing and planning legislation in order to deal with the growing issue of sub-standard and overcrowded houses in this borough and beyond.
A letter to the Minister of State for Housing and Planning from Richmond Council Cabinet members calls on the Government to urgently, and without delay, address the issues relating to Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).
HMOs are houses in which at least 3 tenants live, forming more than 1 household and facilities such as toilets, bathrooms and kitchens are shared with other tenants.
In particular, the Cabinet members for Environment, Planning, and Housing and Public Health urged the Government to prioritise removing the ‘storey rule’ so all houses, regardless of how many floors, with five or more people from two or more separate households are within HMO licensing regulations. The Council will then be equipped to tackle poor standards, migration and the problems being seen in high risk smaller properties as the sector has grown.
Cllr Pamela Fleming, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Environment, Business and Community said:
“The current legislation regarding HMOs is flawed and requires immediate attention. The Council is particularly concerned that the Government continues to drag its feet with changes only due in April 2018, almost two years after they were first proposed.
“In the meantime, the number of HMOs has grown whilst Councils still lack the legislative authority to ensure housing in our borough is of a high standard, and that our residents are not living in cramped, unhealthy developments.
“We want to make it clear to the Government that it must prioritise action over HMOs before sub-standard, over-crowded housing, and all its flow-on effects begins to impact the character and quality of life within our borough.”
Cllr Martin Seymour, Cabinet member for Planning and Strategic Development said:
"The Council intends to apply for an Article 4 directive to remove permitted development rights in these instances and deal with the issues arising from HMOs in the borough. The current planning controls available to the Council could be even more effective if there was a clearer Government definition of what constitutes an HMO. So we would like to see the Government make these directives stronger so it is more effective in regulating the spread of HMOs.”
Cllr Mark Boyle, Cabinet member for Housing, Public Health and Community Safety said:
“There is significant concern that the current system allows landlords to game the system by registering bedsit rooms within an HMO as separate self-contained flats despite the property clearly being an HMO in planning and licence terms.
“These landlords are then able to claim housing benefits far in excess of what they should be entitled to, thereby wasting a significant amount of resources and taxpayer's money and these issues need to be addressed.”