Councils take Shapps to court over HMO U-turn

Councils take Shapps to court over HMO U-turn

17:03 PM, 21st January 2011, About 14 years ago 1

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Councils protesting about a government U-turn over shared house planning laws have won the right to challenge the ruling in the High Court.

Three councils – Oxford, Milton Keynes and Newcastle-upon-Tyne – have argued the case against a change in planning laws for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) since October.

They claim the decision by Housing Minister Grant Shapps was ill-considered and lacked consultation.

A judge has agreed that the case needs reconsideration and has opened the way for the councils to put their opinions before the High Court for a judicial review.

The HMO planning mess was left behind by the Labour government when leaving office for the general election.

New laws were hurriedly introduced in April 2010 requiring that the owners of any new HMO should apply for planning permission. Labour intended to let councils manage the number of HMOs in their areas by giving them the power to grant planning.

Landlords could face return of shared house planning law

In October,  Mr Shapps overturned the new law on the grounds councils already had enough legal tools to manage HMOs.

Now, some councils are applying for selective licensing under article 4 of the Housing Act 2004, which grants them special planning powers over HMOs in designated neighbourhoods.

Oxford City Council handles a large number of complaints every year that come from residents living near shared homes – the city has about 5,000 HMOs mainly housing students.

They claim many of the complaints are from residents objecting to parking, noise and nuisance from shared houses.

Landlords and letting agents have conducted their own legal protests in Oxford, claiming moves to take more control over HMOs restricted their businesses and affected property values.

The council had to shelve plans to introduce the new rules from this month as a result.

Oxford is one of many councils planning to introduce selective licensing after a 12-month consultation period – others include Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, York and Portsmouth.

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0:53 AM, 28th January 2011, About 14 years ago

Councils only know how many large HMOs (licensed, 3 storey, 5 or more tenants) and student shared houses (Council Tax exempt) are in their area. They don't know how many small HMO working share houses exist. These properties pay Council Tax and aren't big enough to have previously needed to be licensed. It is virtually impossible for Councils to identify them.

With the changes to Housing Benefit restricting single people under the age of 35 to only being able to claim for a room in a shared house there will be a greater than ever need for more HMOs especially in city centres.

Councils already had plenty of powers to improve standards in HMO, these Article Four Directions are totally inappropriate.

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