Landlords hit out at new rules for renting

LANDLORDS have criticised the council over the introduction of tougher rules on rented properties.

Bosses at the town hall brought in an additional licensing scheme on Monday, September 19, in a bid to tackle problems associated with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

This means landlords of HMOs within the central St Leonards, Gensing, Braybrooke and Castle wards, areas which account for 85 per cent of all HMOs in town, will now be subjected to a £20,000 fine if they fail to sign up.

HMOs are rented bedsits or rooms for rent or shared housing, and include certain buildings converted into flats.

But more than 70 landlords met with council officials recently and voiced their dismay.

They said the council is proposing to amend current regulations to require landlords to apply for planning permission if they wish to let a property to three unrelated people, known as an Article 4 Direction.

Tony Richard of the National Landlords Association (NLA) said: “Hastings Borough Council (HBC) already has a large toolbox of legislation which it can and should use to remove the small minority of landlords whose properties are shameful. 

“With a minimum upfront licensing fee of more than £800, landlords are understandably angry and view the scheme as unnecessary ‘red tape’ as the private-rented sector is already heavily regulated.

“The council’s proposal to introduce an Article 4 Direction to require landlords to apply for planning permission is seriously flawed. It will lead only to a reduction in the supply of shared housing, affecting those in most need of affordable housing options, such as young professionals, students and those on low incomes.”

The authority said the new regulations will result in higher standards for tenants.

Councillor Trevor Webb, the council’s lead member for housing, said: “The growth in student population, together with changes in the welfare system, is likely to lead to an increase in demand for the small affordable units of accommodation that HMOs provide. This licensing scheme aims to ensure that the quality of housing doesn’t suffer due to high demand. We are inviting applications now and have information on our website, including the application form. There is a fee for the licence which should last for five years, however, discounts are available in certain circumstances, as well as an ‘early bird’ discount for license applications received in the first six months.”

If anyone is unsure whether the scheme applies to them ring the HMO Licensing Taskforce on 01424 451099 or visit www.hastings.gov.uk/housing_tax_benefits/improving_homes/houses_multiple_occupation/