Agenda item

Houses in Multiple Occupation

To receive a report on Houses in Multiple Occupation


The Committee considered a report, Agenda pages 11 to 19, which provided an update on Houses in Multiple Occupation at Shinfield Park.


The issue had been previously considered by the Committee on 23rd November 2015 when Members had requested that the planning and licencing position be monitored and reviewed for submission to the Committee in 2016.  It was also resolved that the Parish Council would be contacted to ascertain if it would fund the provision of additional parking at Shinfield Park  and finally that the Executive Member for Resident Services would consider the issue of licencing of HMOs, particularly in the Shinfield Park Area.


Clare Lawrence stated that:


  • there were no new planning applications for HMOs and no outstanding planning enforcement issues;
  • there were 13 HMOs in Shinfield Park inspected as part of the process of licensing, but the only issue that could be considered through the licensing regime was the health and safety of the occupants; 
  • there had been a small number of complaints to Environmental Health; 
  • The Licensing and Environmental Health Teams have reported that there have been fewer applications for new HMOs as a result of the changes to the rules around investment for ‘buy-to-let’ making them less attractive to landlords;
  • theShinfield Neighbourhood Plan would be going to Executive at the end of September and if agreed there would be a referendum to adopt the Plan by the end of the year.  This contains a policy relative to HMOs.  Parking was one of the main concerns that residents had regarding HMOs.  Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) was due to be considered by the Executive in September and if adopted and applied to Shinfield Park, this could address parking issues.


Members raised the following points and questions:


  • Members queried how the Council knew that there had been less interest in HMOs?  Clare Lawrence explained that this determination came from information received from the Licensing Team who reported a reduced number of phone queries from across the Borough.
  • Members queried the policy regarding parking provision for HMOs.  Clare Lawrence explained that the policy contained within the neighbourhood plan requires one space per bedroom on or off site. To determine off site availability of spaces a parking survey may be required to feed into the planning application process.  It was not easy to give a definitive answer as each case and site is unique.  The key question that would be applied in these situations was whether there was significant harm to residents – the survey would help in this assessment.
  • Members pointed out that car ownership for all houses averaged 2.4 which was above the two per household allowed for in Government policy for new builds.  Clare indicated that the Shinfield site application had been allowed at appeal when Government policy did not encourage parking.  She stated that current Government policies required more parking provision than previously the case.
  • Members questioned the Government’s threshold for a licensable HMO as a house with three storeys and five occupants. Clare Lawrence reiterated that the Council could not go against this threshold without challenges through the courts and ombudsman.  She explained that Article 4 was the only exception but stated that this would be unlikely to be successful as it would need to be supported by the majority of residents; that ’extra-ordinary’ must be demonstrated, and because it would be contrary to the Government’s de-regulation policies. Further it would take one year to be implemented which might escalate issues with landlords changing residential properties to HMOs before the cut-off date. An Article 4 Direction cannot address existing HMOs or related issues and it was felt that CPE offered the greatest opportunity for addressing resident concerns.
  • Members asked if the local MPs could to be asked to assist in changing the rules to allow parking to be addressed for all HMOs.  Clare confirmed that current parking standards were evidence based.  Studies would have to be updated and further evidence gathered.  Residents however were free to contact their MPs to ask for this change to policy.
  • Members asked for a further update on the possibility of finding land for parking.  Ward members and local residents were trying to ascertain who owned available land, but Clare Lawrence stated that no funds had been allocated for this purpose within Wokingham Borough Council.  Councillor Batth suggested that the attitude of some residents compounded the problem and raised the topic of some land at Old Whitley Wood Lane that was currently blocked because of travellers.  Highways were open to it being used for parking however the residents would need to go back to the directors of Residential Management companies to clarify funding for maintaining the land.  


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.   

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