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National HMO Lobby



Managing Multiple Occupancy

A Document Produced for a Meeting between The Rt. Hon. Keith Hill, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, with Representatives from Nottingham City Council, the National HMO Lobby and the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs

We welcome the opportunity to meet with the Minister and to convey to him our concern about the impact of concentrations of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), on the sustainability of certain communities. The following points represent opportunities to address the problems.

1. THE HOUSING BILL: We recognise that this legislation is not intended to address the problems caused by concentrations of HMOs. Nevertheless the Bill will play an essential part in starting to solve these problems.

(a) Mandatory Licensing is most welcome. However, we share the concerns of Shelter and the National Union of Students that the most vulnerable will not be sufficiently protected by the proposed criteria. Risk increases not just with size and number of occupants, but also with the type and behaviour of residents, and the standard of management imposed on the property. We are further concerned that the proposed criteria present an incentive for property owners to avoid licensing by reducing the occupancy of their properties. This will exacerbate the impact on communities by increasing overall demand for HMOs in affected areas. We strongly support a revision of the criteria so that properties with three or more storeys OR four or more occupants are included.

(b) Additional Licensing is also welcome since it can address the problems of anti-social behaviour associated with concentrations of HMOs. Such problems can and do affect these areas, clearly landlords have a role to play in dealing with this problem. We are concerned that the need for government to approve the designation of an area will delay urgently needed action. If clear guidance is given local authorities will not designate areas gratuitously and their judgement should be trusted to decide where this measure will be of benefit.

(c) The Definition of an HMO badly needed reviewing. However, the Bill could be enhanced by a clear and simple summary.

2. HIGHER EDUCATION ISSUES: We welcome the Minister's recognition of the concern expressed around the country about student accommodation and the so-called phenomenon of ‘studentification’. The proposed threefold strategy to address the problem is welcome.

(a) Accreditation can help to improve the quality of the private rented sector. However its voluntary nature means it is no substitute for licensing as a measure to address concentrations of HMOs. Licensing will provide an invaluable database for planning policies, and the introduction of licensing will help to deter irresponsible, speculative and opportunistic landlords, thereby reducing the concentration of HMOs and improving standards in this sector.

(b) Land Use Planning has an important role to play in shaping neighbourhoods. It is essential that planning legislation adopts the same definition of an HMO as housing legislation, that HMOs are explicitly recognised by the Use Classes Order, and that change of use from family housing to HMO is subject to planning consent.

(c) Liaison Between Universities and Local Authorities is very important, and must involve all stakeholders. This takes place in some towns and cities, but Government has a role to play in encouraging meaningful partnerships. It is essential that key issues are identified and higher education establishments are given the powers to address them effectively. These issues include the recruitment of students (their numbers, type and origin), accommodation when they arrive (dispersal of off-campus, purpose-built residences throughout the host city) and their discipline once they are in residence (using procedures which are transparent to the host community).

It seems to us that Universities have a significant role to play in the Government's wider social agenda of regeneration, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, local economic development and improved educational opportunities. Their recent expansion has not worked to bring about the dividends in all of these areas that might have been expected. We welcome the Minister's intention to discuss matters with the Minister of State for Life Long Learning and Higher Education and would seek his commitment to ensure universities address these issues in a meaningful partnership.


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