At the LAT 5th May we were pleased to welcome Mike Slagter from the Private Sector Housing department who spoke to us about the role his department could play in lifting the performance of Viaduct Road.
His department deals with licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), and setting good standards for this type of accommodation. More than half the properties on Viaduct Road are HMOs.
Here are some of the questions we asked, and the answers that he gave.
- please could you point us in the direction of general info about HMOs
If you have not seen it already, the relevant page of the council’s website is http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/housing/general-housing/licensing-houses-multiple-occupation-hmos, from which there are links to further information including a list of frequently asked questions, a list of licensed HMOs and, via the FAQ page, the council’s standards that apply. Not all HMOs have to be licensed but regulatory requirements apply to them all to some extent in terms of how they are managed, with more comprehensive requirements relating to licensed HMOs.
2. please tell us whether there are specific conditions regarding Viaduct Road
There are no HMO conditions which are Viaduct Road specific as such but, as it is in St Peter’s & North Laine ward, it is in one of the five wards of the city where all HMOs of two or more storeys with three or more occupiers must be licensed (as opposed to three or more storeys with five or more occupiers, which applies in the remaining wards). There are also additional planning controls in these same five wards, administered by the Planning team, relating to creation of new HMOs http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1263354.
3. tell us what are the conditions regarding wheely bins/recycling boxes (e.g. not being left out on the street permanently)
There are several requirements under HMO licensing in terms of control of refuse within the property, including any front yard or garden. While we would be able to apply some pressure in licensed HMOs in respect of bins and recycling boxes left outside the property I think that issue would generally fall to be considered by the Highways team in terms of extent of highway obstruction. If particular properties are causing persistent problems this report form might help http://ww3.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1149864&node=21691.
4. what are the conditions regarding rubbish left long term in the front of the property
Under HMO licensing conditions, no rubbish should be left long term in the front of any licensed HMO.
5…. rubbish left in large quantities at the end of the letting period
Again in respect of licensed HMOs, while having to bear in mind to some extent the practicalities and extent of any problems, we would expect licence holders to arrange for the removal of such rubbish without unreasonable delay.
6. how the enforcement process operates when the terms are not complied with
We investigate complaints received relating to licensed HMOs, including those received from neighbouring residents concerning, for instance, accumulations of rubbish. We also investigate any properties reported to us that should be licensed but where no licence application has been made. We can also become involved in the condition of any privately rented property, though only to the extent that any problems might impact on the safety of its occupiers or visitors. We cannot, for example, become involved purely on grounds of visual appearance, though the council’s Planning team has some powers in this respect, as mentioned here http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/planning/planning-enforcement. When terms we are responsible for are not complied with we have to consider each case on its individual merits in accordance with government enforcement guidance. Again in accordance with this guidance, we generally take any issues up with the landlord or agent initially to try and resolve them informally. If this is unsuccessful and/or if we become aware of persistent offenders a number of possibilities arise depending on the particular legislation that applies. In some cases we might be able to issue formal requirements which if not complied with give rise to a criminal offence. In other cases failure to comply with terms can constitute an offence straight away and serious breaches, especially if persistent, are likely to result in prosecution.
…. Please let us know via this PSH mailbox and/or via my direct address email@example.com. In the meantime if there are any particular HMOs that are causing persistent problems, please let us know via this mailbox or by phone on 01273 293156 (Monday to Friday during office hours) and one of our environmental health or technical officers will investigate.