by Ray George

There was a public meeting of the Southampton Federation of Residents’ Associations on 10th October. The topic of the evening was the licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and the speaker was Councillor Warwick Payne, Cabinet Member for Housing and Leisure.
Fortunately, HMOs are not something we suffer from in this Conservation Area. We have not seen houses bought up by landlords who may own dozens of houses, and who fill these houses with students who have late night parties and turn their front gardens into rubbish tips. HMOs may become the majority in the street and the owner occupier families find themselves surrounded.

Councillor Payne said that although the universities were providing more accommodation for students, (I notice that building work has started on the City Gateway Building, Parkville Road) the number of HMOs would still increase because government benefit changes meant that more people would only be able to afford a room in a house of multiple occupation.

As explained in last winter’s newsletter, an Article 4 Direction supported by a Supplementary Planning Document requires planning permission to turn a house into an HMO. But this is not retrospective and provides no control once a house has become an HMO. Currently an HMO with five or more unrelated people and at least 3 storeys requires a licence from the City Council. The Council proposes to extend licencing to all HMOs. They plan to employ a specialist team of 15 officers. The licencing would be self-financing as the proposed licence fee would be £500 for a five year period.

Currently, the proposal to licence all HMOs is out for consultation until 26th November. Further details and a consultation questionnaire can be found at www.southampton.gov.uk/hmo.

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