10:58 AM, 10th February 2011, About 13 years ago
Neighbourhood no-go zones for houses in multiple occupation are spawning some unholy alliances between former property letting adversaries to fight their local councils.
More and more councils are announcing ‘article 4’ declarations to let them take on tough controls to restrict new houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from opening.
Councillors claim they are reacting to public opinion – while landlords, letting agents and students are joining in several cities to protest against the new controls and in some cases, to fight the councils in court.
The latest towns to declare their intention to control HMO development are Fife, Charnwood (Loughborough), Bath and Leeds.
Charnwood has joined Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Oxford and Milton Keynes in taking the government to the High Court for a judicial review of HMO policy.
Students in St Andrew’s, York, Bath and Oxford are supporting landlord and letting protests against tightening up HMO controls.
Landlords and letting agents in Oxford have already forced the city council to water down HMO policy after threatening legal action.
Article 4 powers let councils designate a neighbourhood or the entire council area as requiring selective licensing for new HMOs.
The power also allows councils to force landlords to apply for planning permission before they open a new shared house or extend an existing one.
Effectively, planning controls stop HMOs because property investors simply will not buy a home if there is a chance councillors will reject their plans.
Students claim that article 4 powers are “social engineering” aimed at them.
St Andrews University Students’ Association President, Owen Wilton, said: “The proposed HMO ban amounts to nothing more than inept social engineering. It is wrong in principle, futile and even harmful in practice.
“HMOs were introduced to ensure tenant safety not to enable local planners to shuffle communities around the map.”
Fife has 1120 licensed HMOs, with 93% in St Andrew’s.