Student Accommodation at Risk from Judicial Review

Councils Challenge Government Over HMO Policy

Latest Landlord News by: Madalena Penny

There’s some controversy this month surrounding HMO legislation with four local authorities challenging the Coalition’s classification reform via a judicial review.

Pre-election/ BC (before Cameron) Labour introduced a UK blanket policy affecting licensing of HMO’s in a bid to control residential areas where ‘studentification’ was deemed rife.  The change in classification (C4 Houses in Multiple Occupation) meant that any property which was let to 3 or more unrelated sharers would automatically be classed as ‘2 or more households’ and would require landlords to apply for planning permission.

Under Coalition rule, the policy was quickly scrapped but with an amendment allowing local authorities to enforce their own control through an Article 4 direction under the Town and Country Planning Act 1995.  This gives local authorities the power to restore classification rules if they feel they have a problem with increasing numbers of HMO’s, forcing landlords to apply for planning permission.

As a result of the length of time it takes for Article 4 to kick in (up to 12 months), local authorities are concerned they could be liable for compensation due to financial loss by landlords.

Oxford, Milton Keynes, Charnwood and Newcastle Councils are taking the government to task over this after gaining permission to launch a judicial review.  The four local authorities claim that the government failed to consult the appropriate planning authorities before altering the GDPO (General Permitted Development Order).

Further controversy of the HMO policy enfolded this month when landlords & students in York attacked their council’s plans to enforce the Article 4 direction.

The council claims to have received complaints from residents regarding the noise and general environmental condition, which they have indicated has arisen from students along with a rise in the numbers of HMO’s in the area. A petition of over 500 signatures organised by private landlords claim that irresponsible landlords are in the minority and that the local authority already has sufficient resources to deal with this problem.

Chairman of York Residential Landlords Association, Niall McTurk said:
“The association have instructed solicitors to start a legal challenge with the council.  These unfair changes will not only affect students, but also people on benefits, who are going to find it even harder to get good rented accommodation.  And of course they will harshly affect private landlords.”

Because of impending housing benefit caps, it is thought that a further 88,000 rooms created through HMO’s throughout England will be needed to house those affected by the benefit changes.

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