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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Is it now easier or tougher to create HMOs?

Just now Linka pointed out that the landlord of the Duckett Road property on the planning applications I posted on today is seeking to create an 11 person HMO from a propert that's currently two flats.

In his application he says:

"In accordance with recent legislation, our proposal to convert the flat from use-class C3 to C4 as a HMO is lawful. The new unit will consist of three ‘Rooms’, two of which will share a basic amenity in the form of a shower room. The HMO will provide occupancy for up to 5 people. The proposed bedrooms exceed minimum area requirements, and all of the ‘Rooms’ have a private kitchen. Room 3 (the single bedroom) is totally self-contained.

The proposal acknowledges the Council’s desire to increase the standard of HMO’s within the area. Haringey Council's 'Supplementary Planning Document' recognises the significance of HMO's, and confirms that they provide an important source of low-cost rented accommodation within the borough."

To the half-informed (like me), this suggests that it may now be easier to create HMOs. Does anyone know if this is right?

It appears that the recent approach adopted by the Council will tackle HMO quality but not the spread of HMOs. Legislation was passed to deal with areas being overwhelmed with HMOs, but Haringey Council have chosen not to adopt this. I'm told that this is because it is too expensive.

More informed opinions than mine most welcome.

Tags for Forum Posts: HMOs Article 4, hmos, new hmo controls, 2011

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What door number are you talking about, please.
Jane, are you asking about Duckett or Warham?

OK, I’ve been looking through some old posts on the site and doing a quick bit of Googling and here’s where I think things are at:


The Background

1. The previous government had planned new legislation which would mean that landlords had to submit a planning application to rent their properties to unrelated tenants (in other words to create an HMO).

2. Regulations published in September last year removed this requirement and made it easy for landlords to establish HMOs. However, the changes also allowed Councils to apply for powers to manage the uncontrolled spread of HMOs in areas where it is already a problem. Here’s how Newcastle City Council’s helpful website explains it:


“In October 2010 the Government made further changes which mean a family dwelling (Class C3) may change to a small house in multiple occupation up to 6 people (Class C4) as “permitted development” without the need for planning permission. “

“However in introducing the new powers, the Government have stated that, where Local Authorities consider that there is a local need to control the spread of HMO’s, they can use existing powers in the form of Article 4 Directions to remove this form of permitted development and thereby require the submission of a planning application for such a change between a family dwelling house and small HMO in specific areas where the level of HMO accommodation is considered to be an issue.“


3.     I approached Nilgun Canver, the Council cabinet member responsible for this area of policy. I asked her whether Haringey will be applying to use Article 4. She replied on HoL that they won’t be. In essence this seems to be about cost, but you do your own reading between the lines. Here’s what she wrote on HoL:


“Setting Article 4 directions in general is a very lengthy and resource intensive process. At this stage as the corporate HMO working grp. we have agreed to use other controls and processes that are cheaper to run and more effective”.


4.     Being sceptical over the issue of the efficacy of the “other controls and processes”, I asked the councillor to compare the two. Here’s the subsequent exchange on HoL:


HF: “It sounds like the officers have done some very careful work comparing the relative costs and efficacies of 'other controls and processes' vs. Article 4. Please can you let me know how I can get a copy of their report.

NC: “It'll be on the website. Will let you know.”


The Council's Solution

I’ve not heard back on the comparison issue, but the councillor did kindly send me a copy of the council report on the 'other controls and processes' they’re adopting.

For context, in its introduction, the report recognises how there is now increased pressure on certain areas of Haringey for the creation of more HMOs:


“The Government's decision to restrict the Local Housing Allowance to the 'single room rate' for single people under the age of 35 will substantially [my bold italics] increase the demand for HMOs and place additional pressure on those Wards that already have a large stock of shared housing and temporary accommodation.”


So, by way of their response to this situation and the liberalising of HMO development, here's what Haringey's 'other controls and processes' will mean, as I understand it.

Essentially they are an additional HMO licensing scheme which will:

  • consider “the suitability and competence of the proposed licence holder and the adequacy of their financial arrangements”.
  • and may “limit the number of occupants, require additional bathrooms, toilets, kitchens etc. to be installed and/or require works to be carried out to bring the premises up to standard. The licence will also place requirements on landlords to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants.”
In essence it's focussed on controlling quality, not supply. Here’s what the Council says in detail it will achieve:

  • Improvements to the appearance and condition of HMOs (including the gardens and outbuildings) and the environmental impact they have on the local neighbourhood.
  • Improvements to health and safety, as gas and electrical installations will be safe and fire precautions will be in place.
  • Better outcomes and value for money, more effective problem solving and sustained improvement will be achieved through closer collaboration, an increased presence and regular surveys.
  • Increased awareness of management issues, including fire safety, the control of rubbish and waste, and the maintenance of communal areas, gardens, forecourts and gas / electricity installations.
  • Landlords will be supplied with information to give to their tenants at the start of their tenancies. As well as reinforcing the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant, the information pack will provide very useful information about the local area and services.
  • The knowledge and understanding of landlords and agents will be enhanced by their membership of the development-based London Landlord Accreditation Scheme which is incentivised through the new fee structure for HMO licensing in Haringey.
  • 'Bad' landlords will be prevented from managing licensable HMOs if they are assessed as being not a 'fit and proper' person.

Other, indirect improvements would include the following:

  • Improvements to accommodation, achieved through the use of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, especially in situations where there is excess cold or the property is not secure.
  • Reduced incidents of anti-social behaviour, as landlords and property owners are made more accountable for the behaviour of their tenants and encouraged to tackle and reduce anti-social behaviour.

None of this a bad thing. All to be applauded, but is it enough? Has the Council acted sufficiently to protect our interests?

 

Summary

In essence this is where we are at today:

  1. The Council has recognised that there will be a substantial increase in demand for HMOs.
  2. New legislation frees up the supply of housing available for use as HMOs.
  3. The Council has chosen not to use available powers to limit that supply because they say it is too expensive.
  4. Instead they have opted for an approach which depends on managing the quality of HMOs and relies solely on enforcement.

So what’s the likely result? Well You tell me, but what I see is that unless the Council decide to use Article 4, with the liberalised controls, the increased demand for HMOs will be met with an increased supply; the Council's enforcement team will do their best to police HMO quality, but if Council performance on the control of illegal conversions is anything to go by the impact will be limited.

 

What's the Solution?

I'd like to hear that I'm wrong in drawing the conclusions that I do, but it seems to me that we desperately need Article 4. Other Councils seem to agree. They're applying for it.  Haringey say it’s too expensive. What exactly is the cost? I’d like to see the Council’s report on that.

I’ve been told that much of the cost is in the need to apply for the powers. However, in a previous post I quoted the Royal Planning Institute:


“Most importantly the Minister is also advising that councils with policies already limiting HMO development in parts of their locality, can bring in Article 4 Directions straightaway, without notice, to coincide with the national policy change.”


The problem we had with the spread of gambling establishments was principally an issue with national legislation that the Council had little influence on. With this issue, the Council has the power to control the unmanaged spread of HMOs. If five years down the line, the borough is witnessing multiple problems as a result of an explosion of HMOs we will be justified in pointing the finger at the Council as being responsible and justified in holding them accountable for failing to use the powers that are available.

 

Thanks for such a detailed appraisal & commentary. I think the comparison with the gambling regs is a very relevant one, as it shows how resignation to permissive regulations produces an imbalance and damages the functionality of the high street.

But it almost looks like the councillors have somewhat resigned themselves to Haringey being a provider of the necessary extra capacity of single room rental accommodation. This isn't what the pre-reg-introduction survey consulted on (it somewhat directed responses towards a 'yes' for regulation on the grounds that HMOs needed restricting and monitoring, but without letting on the regulation would allow HMOs to proliferate).

In connection with this - see this post.

Dear Hugh,

As reported, the council is moving ahead with the additional licensing scheme for HMOs in the area in order to improve the quality.  An Article 4 would mean that permitted development rights are withdrawn. This withdrawal would need to go through a lengthy consultation period and be fully justified for the council not to have to pay compensation for the withdrawal of nationally permitted devolopment rights.  At this stage, our preferred option is to progress the additional licensing programme which is designed to increase improved and well managed smaller HMOs. The new additional licensing scheme will also generate its own resources which can be ploughed back into HMO management and improvement. Having said all these, I would like to inform you that I am planning to organise a borough wide seminar in the Autumn on HMOs to debate what other meaningful tools we have to introduce to control clustering of HMOs in the borough and to frame our strategic approach to these issues. Inevitably, at the seminar Article 4 Direction will be part of our debate. As you'll appreciate Article 4 will require much wider debate and strategic approach fully analysing advantages and disadvantages of such introduction. In the meantime, I will ask officers to e-mail you an update on the current additional licensing scheme that we are progressing in Harringay. Have a good Sunday.

Thank you Nilgun. To keep the discussion in one place, I have copied your response and replied to you on the newer thread.

Thanks very much for drawing this material together, Hugh.

I have now written to the planning department with regard to 18 Duckett Road, in the terms mentioned in my previous posting.

 

David Schmitz

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Harringay Ward

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