Houses in Multiple Occupation – in London Road and Lewes Road #Brighton

February 3rd – meeting convened by Cllr. Tracy Hill.

Mike Hedgethorne and Tony Firmin attended on behalf of the LAT.

Notes of the meeting can be downloaded here – and also copy and pasted below.

Other documents – commenting on planning applications, HMO forum handout, Letter to Letting Agents, Lewes-road-contact-list, Planning HMO information.

HMO Round Table meeting 3rd February 2016 – write-up of discussion

Actions:

  • Circulate more detailed write-up of the discussion
  • Provide a contact list
  • Provide info on getting weekly updates of planning applications, considerations to be taken into account (when commenting on an application)
  • Look into searchability of HMO register
  • Provide explanation of why HMO registration can’t be dependent on planning permission
  • Look into some kind of group email system so we can contact each other and look up previously discussed themes
  • Provide template letters & relate them to the different stages of the planning process
  • Circulate the letter being sent to letting agencies
  • Pass on feedback regarding planning enforcement response times
  • Book another meeting to focus on refuse and recycling early April
  • Investigate Stop notices

Meeting notes:

Purpose of meeting (Cllr Tracey Hill):

  • Look at what residents & community groups can do to work together to ensure better community cohesion. Challenges relate to both limits of legislation & resources in council. So working together will help.
  • Renting is on the rise, not just students in HMOs. Renters don’t have security of tenure so move around a lot and don’t integrate as well in the community.

Round-the-table introductions from groups. What are your main issues, and what have you as a group done which has improved things?

Ian Brown, Rose Hill RA

  • Buying up of London Terrace, turning family homes into student lets, adding basements & attics. Potentially 12 residents per house.
  • Noise at mornings for businesses in London Rd.

Chris & Della HEGLAT

  • 40-50% HMOs yet homes still being bought up. Enforcement can take over a year.
  • Conservatories as well as attics extended, so very noisy even if students just chatting

Helen Mitchell & Carl Newmarket Rd, HEG

  • Lots of students – issue of noise. Had Matthew Gest to tell them at meeting how to deal with HMOs

Cllr David Gibson – HEG

  • Needs better enforcement and speed up process

Matthew and Shelaine from Adams Close, H&S

  • 2 3-bed houses in the close turned into 6 bed houses. Issues of noise and recycling. Frustrated they had to wait a year, then appeals. Feel professional HMO conversion specialist is taking advantage of delays in enforcement

Cllr Louisa Greenbaum SPNL

  • Lots of residents groups in SPNL – HMOs is the no 1 issue

Tony Firm & Mike Hedgethorne London Rd LAT

  • Letting agents invited to LAT to discuss, but no one turned up.
  • Viaduct Rd far more HMOs then limit. Bins not being put away, blocking street

Sandy Crowhurst North Laine Community Association

  • 40 HMOs in area, despite only a few residential streets. A lot of students and also noise & vandalism

Cllr Lizzie Deane (West Hill LAT)

  • University need to take responsibility for the number of housing being lost and impact on community

Sarah O’Mahoney Hollingbury Rd

  • Concerned about student housing, rather than other HMOs where tenants older. Pleased about Article 4 Direction as fewer new applications in the road. Developers are buying homes and carving up every room to add conservatories. Noisy gardens etc
  • A developer gave neighbours different plans from those given to the Council. Asked for retrospective planning permission and refused, but that was over-ruled.
  • Street very dirty as students not putting away bins, bin bags etc. Need to enforce.
  • There is a video online on how to get round Article 4 Direction regulations (G4 Lets).

Annie Rimington, Round Hill LAT

  • Big increase in HMOs. Reduction in number of families and short-term involvement in community. Some antisocial behaviour, noise, rubbish. High rents for poor quality homes that aren’t properly maintained. Fly tipping esp mattresses etc
  • They write a newsletter to all residents, encourage people to meet theirneighbour, contacted letting agents about mess

Robin Berry, Coldean

  • Parking an issue from Varley Halls. Student numbers increasing, and despite university discouraging students from brining cars, many parked in Coldean lane.
  • Last year did a survey of HMOs in Coldean and reported them to council. Students not cleaning up and state of gardens. Contacted agents about gardens and got improvements in most HMOs. Speaking to agents helps. Landlords need to take responsibility for gardens as shouldn’t be up to students.

Chris Jones, Coombe Rd LAT

  • Feel overwhelmed by HMOs. Agencies & landlords develop homes, despite Article 4 Direction. Been fighting one for 3 years. 6 students in a 2 bed house. Spoke to Matt Gest. Landlord has fought it and fought it, now gone to planning inspector. Landlords make so much money, but rubbish, noise, gardens a mess. When it gets to 50% students it’s breaking down community.

Andy Winter, London Rd LAT

  • Studentification a huge issue. The HMO register is unhelpful as it’s 995 pages of a pdf – not searchable. There needs to be a local person managing the property. Examples of managers who live miles away and aren’t hands-on.

Maureen Winder, Triangle Group

  • Feels like developments are overwhelming. Large buildings, varying standards. Hard to build relations with students. Houses getting divided up and wrecked. Landlords not thinking about impact on community. Biggest problem is that community has no input into planning HMOs. Community groups need bigger say in developments. Community groups need more support, not battles with agents & developers. Group is staying positive and working on initiatives.

Rose Hedley, Triangle Group

  • Triangle has up to 80% HMOs in some streets. Poor quality homes already, and landlords not maintaining properties. Matt Gest has been working with LAT.

Roger Rolfe, St James Community Action Group

  • St James Street & KingsCliffe HMOs getting turned into party houses. Big groups of men getting wasted and causing noise all night. HMOs can be smaller than bed sits.

Cllr Anne Meadows, Moulsecoomb LAT

  • Issues with rubbish and recycling. Fly tipping when students leave. Gardens not kept nice, dragging down areas.
  • Group is pro-active in dealing with students, Kevin Mannall from Brighton Uni very helpful and their behaviour has improved.

Cllr Caroline Penn, H&S

HMOs and increasing numbers of students a big issue across the ward.

 

[Tracey provides a useful contacts list of HMO contacts to group.]

 

Planning Permission flow chart and community actions

Planning permission is often applied for retrospectively, in which case the whole process can take a year or more because of statutory time periods and the landlord’s right to appeal.

If the landlord or letting agent doesn’t tell the tenant that planning permission has already been refused or an enforcement notice has been served, this is against their consumer rights and the letting agents’ code of conduct. Trading Standards can write a letter to letting agents who are doing this to warn then. A letter has also gone out to all letting agents asking them to obtain planning permission information from landlords and pass it to tenants.

Suggestion – community groups contact letting agent advertising an HMO that doesn’t have permission, to ensure they know the situation and that local people will make a complaint. Also when a property appears to be being converted into an HMO after changing hands, a letter to the new owner ensuring they know the situation. (NB some lets and sales don’t appear online or with a local letting agent). Example letters can be circulated.

Problem – letters going out from Planning actually going to other students in street. Longer term residents not aware. Info to be circulated on how to look at planning applications in a particular ward.

Info to go round on what information can be taken into account when objecting to planning applications. This could be something to return to in a later meeting.

Resident groups are encouraged to report HMOs, but frustration that response times on emails to Planning Enforcement can be very slow. This will be passed on.

Focus on universities – parents will take an interest in the situation their student children are in.

It seems to be the same letting agents and developers over and over. Sharing information will help. More publicity when enforcements successful would be welcome.

In Leeds, universities had longer rents, in return for head leased properties, students must keep place clean and gardens tidy. The universities here have some head leased properties and could be encouraged to have more.

Query about having plaques outside the property doors, too show it’s a licensed HMO.

 

Summing up

Interested in setting up some kind of online group or email list to share information. Can we use FB, or Google Groups or Base Camp.

Tracey to circulate a details of all the LATs so they can chat and discuss. Tracey asked if anyone didn’t want to be on circulation list.

Follow up meeting To discuss recycling, rubbish and fly tipping Meet again early April.

Big thank you to Tracey for organising the meeting