Just before the holiday period Trafford Council announced an “emergency” borough-wide Article 4 direction in relation to HMOs.
An emergency Article 4 comes into force immediately when approved, the local authority then has to hold an official consultation before the temporary scheme, which lasts 6 months, ends.
The consultation for this scheme is now open until 5th February 2018.
Article 4 directions restrict permitted rights either in relation to a particular area or site, or a particular type of development anywhere in the local authority’s area. When an Article 4 direction is in effect, a planning application may be require for development that would have otherwise been permitted.
Where an Article 4 direction is in operation relating to Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) landlords must gain planning permission before converting what was formerly a Class 3 house (a family home) to a Class 4 home (a HMO). It is up to the local authority whether they implement an Article 4 direction, and existing shared houses are not affected.
The council claims that this scheme is “intended to mitigate the potential impacts from the arrival of the significant numbers of students attending the proposed University Academy 92 (‘UA92’), and therefore a potential rise in the number of HMOs.
It will enable the Council to better control the location and number of HMOs to minimise any potential adverse effects on the local housing market, to ensure that an overconcentration of HMOs did not result and to help ensure that the provision of student accommodation is of good quality.”
The RLA will be making an official response, opposing this scheme, as we do with all local government consultations. We believe these measures are generally the wrong legislation to deal with social problems perceived to be related to HMOs.
Introducing an Article 4 direction takes the current HMOs out of the family housing market as landlords risk losing the existing rights of shared houses if they even temporarily house a single occupancy.
As Articles 4 directions do not apply to already developed HMOs these restrictions do nothing to reverse the negative impact shared houses can have on an area. If anything they put areas without a HMO population at higher risk as new HMOs will be on the look out for new areas.
Once the quality of an area has started to decrease due to a high presence of HMOs, an Article 4 restriction is already too little too late.
Owners can also expect their properties value to take a hit, by up to 30%, because the market for investment is reduced and landlords looking for properties that can withstand a change in demand will be excluded from the market.
In place of an Article 4 direction the RLA suggests a number of alternative approaches, including; allowing landlords to use their house for family homes (c3) and HMOs interchangeably, dealing with the social issues that may arise within HMO accommodation through proper means such as environmental health and the police, not relying on landlords, and dealing with rogue and criminal landlords through accreditation and self-regulation.
These licensing and planning schemes do nothing but anticipate social problems and harm good and lawful landlords who will follow legislative changes whilst criminal landlords will continue to create hidden, overcrowded, and dangerous HMOs which the local authority will find continually difficult to find, regulate, and prosecute.
If you wish to make a representation you may do so by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Trafford Council, Planning and Development, Trafford Town Hall, Talbot Road, Stretford, M32 0TH.
Any representations must be received by 5pm on the 5 February 2018. The full details of this scheme can be read here.