HMO Round Table meeting 3rd February 2016 – write-up of discussion
- 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
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.
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
Minutes of 7th April 2016
HMO meeting 7th April 2016 at the Bevy
Summary of actions:
- Karl to set up email group. Tracey and Caroline also Admins. Any other offers to be admins?
- Everyone: please let Tracey know the details if you are waiting on anything from Planning Enforcement at the moment. 43 and 45 Coombe Road, Bernard Road, London Terrace. Anything else??
- Tracey to circulate a simple “How To” guide to HMOs (using one started by Chris Roberts) and also offered to go to LAT meetings and show residents how to find the information for the HMOs they are concerned about
- Becky/Dean to get back on whether Brighton University students could also be included in the recycling service drop-off at the Lewes Road office.
- Tracey will also contact Brighton University and Students Union to ask them to respond on everything we discussed.
- Caroline Penn to talk to Sussex Uni in regard to Customer First in a Digital Age (ie the Council’s IT upgrade project) and the bin day texting service.
- Tracey will report back on getting all the information together about recycling companies and services (after liaising with CityClean, the Food Partnership and Universities).
- David Gibson and Hanover & Elm Grove residents to liaise to set up next meeting
Attendees: [personal email addresses edited out]
|Moulsecoomb LAT/Councillor||Anne Meadows|
|Moulsecoomb LAT||Alan George|
|Moulsecoomb LAT||Lynn Burtonshaw|
|Coombe Road LAT||Christine Jones|
|Coombe Road LAT||Rebecca Barkaway|
|London Road Area LAT||Tony Firmin|
|London Road Area LAT||Mike Hedgethorne|
|Round Hill LAT||Rob Stephenson|
|The Triangle||Maureen Winder|
|The Triangle||Helen Murray|
|Rose Hill RA||Ian Brown|
|Rose Hill RA||Ros Lopez|
|Newmarket Road RA||Karl Nunweiler|
|Coldean RA||Robin Berry|
|Hollingbury Road RA||Sarah O’Mahoney|
|Sussex Students Union||Sarah Gibbons|
|Sussex University||Dean Spears|
|Sussex University||Rebecca Foran|
Preference is for email group among attendees above Facebook Action Point: Karl from HEG has kindly offered to set it up.
Planning enforcement response times – team have taken on comments. Anne M outlined challenges in Planning at the moment. Objective of the Group is to try and resolve issues & information requests, to reduce demand on officers and only contact them to make a formal complaint.
Responding within 10 days: this isn’t always happening. You can email email@example.com rather than just one officer.
Action Point: Please let Tracey know the details if you are waiting on anything from Planning Enforcement at the moment. 43 and 45 Coombe Road, Bernard Road, London Terrace. Anything else??
No objection to inviting Matthew Gest to a future meeting, but the purpose is to reduce pressure on the officers, so if they are invited it would need to be for a reason that fitted with that objective.
Action Point: Tracey to circulate a simple “How To” guide to HMOs and also offered to go to LAT meetings and show residents how to find the information for the HMOs they are concerned about
Tracey also circulated list of HMOs refused planning permission, but haven’t had enforcement notices. Please check and see whether any of them are being used as HMOs – not all of them are, eg Washington Street.
Proceeds of Crime act. Only applicable if they are committing criminal act, ie the enforcement notice expires and the use continues. Hasn’t happened yet but the Council is aware of the possibility of using it.
Better if needed planning permission before they registered to be an HMO. Currently it’s the other way round. This would need a change in national law so that HMO licences could be withheld if planning permission is needed. Action Point: Tracey to look into lobbying government.
Tracey: on Hollingbury Rd – originally advertised as student let/family home. Planning officer wrote to agency and ad changed to a family home only. This action was after letter sent as warning, ie it’s not always necessary to do a formal investigation and enforcement.
Sussex Uni: students made aware of need for planning permission as well as HMO license. Housing officers are happy to help with any residents’ queries. They are getting a lot more enquiries now. They have visited all agencies on Lewes Rd and gave them leaflets. Sussex student union also working to update leaflets. Housing@sussex.ac.uk
Q: Sussex leaflet needs to be clearer that glass needs separating as students done always.
A: there will be an update soon.
Refuse and Recycling
End of term clear-outs:
There is a new enforcement agency appointed by the Council. They have 3 people in place, covering the city. Been in the post for 3 weeks. So must be realistic that it won’t stop fly tipping entirely. However, penalties for businesses are high.
Owners of white goods hard to trace, so it can be hard to get a prosecution. But it is making a difference.
A: If white goods etc are left in the garden, CityClean cannot act. However if it’s a licenced HMO, the private sector housing team can contact the landlord. (firstname.lastname@example.org, (01273) 292452)
Also, if they are students, Sussex housing team can help too. Use the Sussex and Brighton (and BIMM) contacts to notify the universities. If it’s large bulky furniture it may be the landlord not the tenant (most student properties are let furnished). Contact the private sector housing team if it’s a licensed HMO (see above).
Q: White goods may have address on them eg in UV marked with postcode, but the teams are not equipped with UV scanners.
Q: Fly tipping on allotments also issue as often have no bins. Need more facilities to recycle
A: Richard says many companies in city recycle. Often free, and information is available. Action Point: get all the information together about recycling companies and services.
Sussex Uni let students know about recycling, swapping and free-cycling. Especially to avoid them dumping stuff at end of term.
All students encouraged to recycle household items, and this year they can take stuff into the Lewes Road office, not just at campus. It’s then available to incoming students next term. Kitchen goods etc very popular, especially to overseas students. This could be made available to students at Brighton and other institutions. Action point: Becky/Dean to look into this.
Q: in Coldean, black bins not up to it. Communal bins are popular.
A: Richard – no one size fits all. In Viaduct road consulting on communal bins. Trial of recycling wheelie bins has been popular – this will go to a committee meeting shortly. Hopefully recycling up, other waste down, satisfaction up.
Q: Dave Gibson – streets in HEG narrow, a bit of an issue with access.
A: Richard – councils used to be able to fine residents for not bringing in bins and boxes, but we can no longer fine people. So relying on residents to bring in bins. CityClean do write to residents.
Sussex visited students on Viaduct Rd – only 3 of them are Sussex student households. Told them to bring boxes in. Were not aware of the issues. Sussex can also liaise with Brighton Uni students.
Q: Hollingbury Rd very bad, even a glass fight recently.
A: powers of local authority limited. CityClean can write, email and speak to residents, but resources are tight.
Coombe Road RA did a door-knocking exercise. It did make a difference. Beginning of academic year an important time, but it needs repeating.
Sussex Uni: we will write to all students in areas mentioned (Hollingbury, Ewhurst, Coombe, Mafeking Roads). Happy to help with door-knocking and communications re bin days.
Q: Lynn: not all HMOs are students, also need to have young professionals.
A: where residents want communal bins, useful to feed back to LATs and elected members.
They aren’t the panacea, but City Clean can do a site assessment & take to committee.
Dave Gibson – people in HEG happy with communal bins, but not those who have bins outside their house. Need to try and work with residents or discounts on c-tax.
A: Richard – we can’t reduce c-tax, it’s not in our power.
Problem with communal bins is if they aren’t covering whole area, people from other areas can use them, and side dumping is a problem.
Students in Round Hill now getting more involved after door knocking. Improved the area and students participate in conservation etc.
Sussex is doing a trial of composters for garden & food waste. Trials for students in 16 head leased properties with gardens, done in with Brighton and Hove Food Partnership.
Also, encouraging students to consider the impact of food waste and recycling.
Tracey: these green cones take all food waste, not just what goes into a composter so it’s not going into the incinerator, and the Council is not paying to collect it and dispose of it. Reduces refuse and increases the recycling rate.
Feedback from students is that recycling usually different from what was at home, so confusing.
Q: Text alerts for bin days
A: Caroline Penn to talk to Sussex Uni in regard to Customer First in a Digital Age (ie the Council’s IT upgrade project). Oxford has an App.
Q: Waste disposal license – where fly tippers caught, prosecution will be to owner of tipped goods, unless they checked the company they used had a waste disposal licence.
Q: Time of bin lorries often collecting between 5-6 in the morning. Waking them up.
A: trucks to 2 miles per gallon. So can’t have them stuck traffic. If it’s commercial waste, they are private collectors, but you can speak to environmental health about the noise nuisance.
Sussex are updating their “living in the community” guide with more local ward-based information to make students aware of the area they are moving into. Coombe Rd & Round Hill people are very interested in getting involved. Others can as well by contacting Sarah Gibbons on email@example.com or Sussex housing email above.
Q: Lynn – is it possible to have an area for student waste like with Christmas trees?
A: we can’t really cope with the amount of rubbish. Richard emphasised that we have to move away from refuse and move to reuse and recycle. We are far higher average in throwing away then comparable cities.
Next topic: Noise
Meeting agreed to be in the Hanover on Queens Park Road, early June.