Landlady taken to court over unauthorised HMO

Posted On 28 Feb 2020 at 1:56 pm

A landlady is being prosecuted for continuing to rent a shared house to students despite being ordered to turn it back into a family home.

Shirley White, of Southgate, London, applied for planning permission to turn 41 Bevendean Crescent into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) – but her request was refused, and a subsequent appeal was dismissed.

This month, she pleaded not guilty to breaching an enforcement notice which Brighton and Hove City Council issued on 20 December 2018 to stop using it as an HMO.

A trial will now take place next month.

The council had refused the application in September 2018 because more than one in four houses in a 50m radius are already HMOs – almost three times the 10% threshold over which new HMOs are now allowed.

Planners also turned it down because the smallest room is tiny – 4.7sqm compared to the minimum size of 7.5sqm.

The appeal against the council’s refusal, which was lodged in June last year, was decided in September by planning inspector Andrew Owen.

When he visited in August, during the universities’ summer break, the house was empty but everyone agreed it had been rented out as a shared house, to three students and one professional.

In his report, Mr Owen said: “The appellant states that there is no specific evidence to indicate that the development would lead to any direct identifiable impacts on the occupiers of neighbouring properties and that there could be a similar number of people, and level of noise, in both C3 [family home] and C4 [HMO] uses.

“Whilst I accept this could be the case, I consider that the pattern of movement would be significantly different in a family dwelling to that arising from unrelated occupiers, who may be in a variety of different occupations with different shift patterns or academic schedules.

“It is also reasonable to consider unrelated individuals could well each have their own guests and visitors when compared with a family home.

“Therefore, when occupied, I consider there would be an intensification, and irregular pattern, of activity which would result in increased levels of noise and disturbance and would be to the detriment of the living conditions of the occupiers of neighbouring properties.

“The appellant states that it would be ensured that the occupiers will be respectful to neighbouring properties.

“However, this is something which cannot be guaranteed and as such, it would not address the concerns regarding the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers.

“Furthermore, the lack of registered complaints to date would not be a reason to disregard potential harmful impacts, and notwithstanding this, I note a comment from the adjacent occupier regarding noise when the property was occupied as an HMO.”

He added: “My site visit established the smallest bedroom on the first floor was unfurnished and felt very confined.

“If this room includes necessities such as a bed and storage space, it would further exacerbate the confined feeling . . . the room would be extremely cramped, and I fail to see how this could provide an acceptable standard of accommodation for an adult.”

The house was bought in June 2016 for £275,000 and online property company Zoopla now estimates it’s worth up to £340,000.

An application for an HMO licence – separate to the planning process – was submitted in July 2017 but the property is currently unlicensed.

In November 2017 it was advertised to rent at £1,750 per month.

  1. stephen Hetherington Reply

    The trouble with HMO’S starts with absentee landlords that have managing agents who answer the phone very professionally and distance themselves from complaints made by the home owner neighbours. You would not believe the issues over the past twenty years I have had in my small Hanover street.
    I had an extremely aggressive drunk man kicking my door for 20 minutes one evening because it he mistook my door for the one next door but one. I was knocked out as the door gave way and hit me in the face, fortunately neighbours and police arrived on the scene. No charges but a night in the cells.
    At present the row of five houses next to me has a mix of very nice quiet middle class students who are grateful for taking in their parcels, and totally detached guys who don’t speak my version of English, but either has no idea that food waste left in the black boxes brings rats- my house has had rat problems on and off year after year and it it is disturbing to say the least, it is a nightmare.
    HMOs – if only the tenants even took care to dispose of the rubbish would be a start, my street always
    looks like a total mess. If expecting a visitor I clean the worst beforehand. The used Jonny in a half eaten pizza box and vodka bottle on the pavement sums up the scenario.
    The council needs to sanction all these Landlords who live out of sight and mind.

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