Six students living in a “cramped” shared house are facing eviction after its owners were told to convert it back into a family home – just 18 months after seven more were turfed out of the same house.
Mr and Mrs Donald Rayward were first told to evict students from 17 Bernard Road by October 2015 after a planning inspector dismissed an appeal against an enforcement notice Brighton and Hove City Council had issued, requiring it to be converted back to a normal residence. The students had moved in the previous month unaware that the notice had been served some months before.
But instead of making the changes required by the notice, the Raywards instead reduced the number of bedrooms by one, putting it into a different planning category, made a fresh application and moved six more students in.
The application was duly rejected and another enforcement notice issued and appealed, which has this month been dismissed too, with a deadline of April 6 this year to move the students out.
In dismissing the latest appeal, inspector Doug Morden said: “Whilst there is one less bedroom it does not overcome the objections
found by the previous inspector in my view.
“A lounge is now provided but it does no really provide sufficient room for all six people to sit in it at the same time and there is no guarantee they would want to in any event.
“I consider it is still likely that occupants would spend a lot of time in their own rooms. These are mainly on the upper floors and adjoin bedrooms of the adjacent properties; this more intensive use would cause increased noise and disturbance for those living in the adjacent dwellings in the terrace.
“The appellant refers to the powers of the Council’s Environmental Department and statutory noise nuisance action that could be taken if there was a problem.
“This is very difficult to instigate and the level of noise necessary for such action to be successful is, in my view, much more than one should have to suffer if the disturbance is being heard in adjoining bedrooms.
“Permission should not be granted for something that is likely to be so intolerable that it would need to be pursued through that course of action.
“There are letters of objection to this proposal from those living within two or three doors of the appeal site and they raise objections which in my view should carry weight in deciding whether or not this appeal should be allowed.”
He added that responsibility to rehouse the tenants, all international students studying at the University of Brighton, lies with their college, and it may not be easy to do so and so he extended the deadline to cease HMO use from two months to three.
But he said the fact the landlord moved them in aware that the use was unauthorised and that the house was continuing to cause nuisance to neighbours meant he was not prepared to extend the deadline to the end of the academic year.
The house has been leased almost continuously since September 2013 for about £3,300 a month, which means by April it will have made the Raywards approximately £140,000 in gross rental income.
It was sold as a three bedroom house for £119,000 in 1999, and bought by the Raywards’ company Millhouse Enterprises on February 15, 2013 for £339,000. It is now valued by Zoopla at £411,000.
Although unauthorised, the use of the house has not been illegal. However, if the students are still living there on April 7, the landlords will then be liable to criminal prosecution.
In Brighton and Hove property owners in five wards must get planning permission to convert single dwellings into HMOs. This is to make sure communities have a range of housing types in their area, so if more than 10% of properties within 50 metres of the application site are HMOs planning permission will be refused.
Councillor Julie Cattell, chair of the city’s planning committee, said: “We’re pleased that the Inspector has agreed with our decision to refuse this cramped HMO.
“Two rooms were created in the roof of this property giving those tenants just three square metres each of living space. The communal lounge was also not big enough for six people.
“Turning this property back into a single dwelling house will bring a much-needed family home back into circulation, helping to redress the balance of housing mix in this community.”
Council action against unauthorised HMOs has been stepped up in recent months. Since November enforcement notices have been issued on 19 Riley Road, 64 Upper Lewes Road, 28 Lower Bevendean Avenue and 39 Newmarket Road.