Brighton and Hove planning officers are investigating up to 50 houses which could be breaching city regulations by being rented out as shared and student homes.
New city council rules in the process of being adopted as part of the city plan state that family homes in designated neighbourhoods cannot be converted into houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) if the area is already saturated with them.
Officers have served four notices on the past month on houses which have been converted in breach of the rules – and a report published this week states that as of last month, about 45-50 more properties were under investigation.
The report says: “As the city plan approaches adoption the policy has gained greater weight and is now being used more successfully at appeal.
“As of October 2015 about 45-50 properties were under investigation. It is anticipated that notices will continue to need to be served over the next few months.
“In the past notices gave six-month compliance this is now being reduced to three months. As notices take one month to come into effect this gives four months from the date the notice is served to find alternative accommodation.”
The report also explains that licensing cannot prevent conversion of family dwellings, but instead regulates how they are managed and places licence holder details in the public domain.
It says: “Though mainly intended for the benefit of occupiers, there are management regulations that apply to all HMOs and these contain provisions, for example in terms of keeping shared areas tidy, that can impact on neighbourhoods as a whole.”
The HMO planning regulations, which state that permission will not be granted for new HMOs where there are more than 10% already existing in a 50m radius of the proposed site, currently apply to five Brighton wards along the Lewes Road, and have this week been rolled out to seven more in Brighton and Hove in areas with high concentrations of bedsits.
Two student houses in Bernard Road, Brighton, were among the first to have enforcement notices upheld by a planning inspector in June this year, with the enforcement notices now running until December.
However, the owners of one of them, number 17, moved seven students in in September anyway and has now applied again for permission, but for a smaller, six bed HMO.