Tougher rules on student lets and shared houses in Sunderland

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NEW rules are to be introduced to make it harder to create multiple occupancy properties.

Landlords would have to apply for planning permission to convert a home into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), in five city wards from next year.

They have been put forward because Sunderland Council fears there are too many in Barnes, Hendon, Millfield, St Michael’s and St Peter’s.

In a report for tomorrow’s meeting of the ruling cabinet, deputy chief executive Janet Johnson said: “High concentrations of HMOs have become an issue in a number of towns and cities across the county, particularly those with universities.

“High concentrations can have a detrimental impact on the local environment, with impacts on social cohesion and services in an area.”

Until now, a house could become an HMO – which sees the property split into sections leased separately by different tenants – without the local authority’s approval. Council bosses want to invoke Article four of the Town and Country Planning Order of 1995, stripping landlords of the right to “permitted development”.

However, Nigel Flanagan, a landlord with properties across Sunderland, including in Hendon, believes there are already enough rules in place regulating HMOs.

“There are more professionals seeking rental than ever before,” he said.

“And as long as it meets the right standards, I cannot see any reason why we need any other policies to stop that happening.

“I can understand their concerns, but there’s a growing need (for HMOs) so I don’t know what they are going to achieve.

“Just more regulation? They’ve got that already.”

Sunderland Council said that requiring submission of a planning application to be submitted does not mean it will be refused.

Hendon councillor Barbara McClennon said: “My view is anything we can do to ensure accommodation that is offered to people is of a suitable standard has to be a good thing.

“We don’t just introduce regulation for the sake of it, we do it for the people we serve.”

Students from Sunderland University make up a large proportion of those living in HMOs, and the institution was consulted as part of the proposal.

Director of facilities Phil Marsh said: “Article four is used throughout the country and over the years there’s been a lack of regulation.

“The last thing we want is our students to have a poor experience of the city, or to feel they are having a negative impact on their neighbourhood.

“Our students add a lot to society, but we need to make sure that impact is 
positive.”