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From: http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1447619

Housing and Planning Minister John Healey today announced new local powers to control the spread of high concentrations of shared rented homes and to tackle pockets of unsafe and substandard accommodation run by bad landlords.

Mr Healey confirmed new powers for local councils to manage the unplanned spread of Houses in Multiple Occupation (or an HMO) in towns and cities. The cluster of too many shared houses can sometimes cause problems, especially if too many properties in one area are let to short term residents with little stake in the local community. Tenants can also suffer from poor conditions and management of the properties by landlords.

A Government consultation on how to tackle this long-standing issue closed last year. It attracted around 900 responses, published today, from local authorities, residents associations, universities, individuals, MPs, councillors, and campaign groups. The large majority of those who responded supported a change to the so-called Use Classes Order, which defines how a property can be legally used, and the introduction of a definition of what constitutes a HMO.

Mr Healey responded to the consultation by confirming changes to the planning rules, giving local authorities the powers to manage the development of HMOs in their area, in turn helping stem the growth of large pockets of shared homes - which can change the balance and nature of communities. The Minister said that he would legislate so the new rules would come into force by April this year. The changes mean that landlords will need to apply for planning permission in order to establish a new HMO with a change of use, for example when the use of a property is altered from a family home to a shared house, with three or more tenants who are not related.

The Minister also published plans for councils, giving them extra flexibility to license landlords, requiring safe and quality rented accommodation in neighbourhoods where large numbers of substandard properties can be a magnet for community problems.

In a consultation published today, John Healey proposes to give a general consent for councils to introduce licensing schemes, without seeking permission from central Government, in hotspot areas where landlords do not maintain or manage their properties properly. A general consent would ensure that decisions on the quality of rented homes are made by those who are aware of the local issues and needs of the community. In the future, tenants will see improved standards and councils will be better able to deal with the worst landlords that drag down the neighbourhood.

Mr Healey also confirmed that detailed work is now underway for a new National Landlords Register, to help raise standards of private rented accommodation further. For the first time it will give landlords and tenants easy access to clear advice and support. It will also be the way in which landlords and tenants can be kept informed of basic rights and responsibilities.

John Healey, said:

"Today I am giving councils more local powers to crack down on the worst landlords and stop the spread of high concentrations of shared homes where it causes problems for other residents or changes the character of a neighbourhood.

"Private landlords play a big part in meeting the housing needs of millions so I want to raise the standards and stamp out the worst landlords that drag down the reputation of the rest. Councils know their communities and are best placed to help tenants facing landlords who rent unsafe or substandard accommodation and take little responsibility for the problems caused for neighbours.

"It's also right that tenants have the information they need about potential landlords, and know what to do when things go wrong. The new National Landlords Register I will set up will give them access to this important advice.

"Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live and these measures aim to improve standards of the private rented sector at a time when more people look to rent as their first option in the housing market."

Many towns and cities across the country have suffered the effects of a concentration of HMOs. Market, coastal and university towns have reported problems due to large student populations and HMOs, meaning shops, businesses and pubs simply close down creating 'ghost neighbourhoods'.

The consultation identified the problems linked with high concentrations of HMOs and looked at ways of dealing with the difficulties. John Healey today confirmed that new local powers will be in place by April this year. The changes will include a specific definition of an HMO and a general consent for councils to set up local landlord licensing schemes.

Well as an agent I have, for many years, let properties to students (and groups of 3+ professionals and have yet to find them responsible for closing local shops (blame large supermarkets for that!) or pubs, ESPECIALLY pubs! :angry: This will mean additional costs for landlords - change of use fee (if not already let to 3+ tenants); local council licence fee and then, if they get in again, a landlord registration fee. Landlords need less regulations at the moment, not more.

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