'Surge' in unauthorised shared homes in Brighton

Brighton and Hove
Brighton and Hove

More than 100 cases of unauthorised houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are being investigated in Brighton and Hove, the council has said.

Brighton and Hove City Council said in the 2016/17 financial year the number of reports of unauthorised HMOs - usually occupied by students or young workers - more than doubled on the previous year to 192.

Planning officers are steadily working through cases, and there are currently 109 live investigations, according to the council. The local authority has taken on an extra member of staff to meet demand.

Special planning permission is needed in five council wards to change family homes into shared houses for six unrelated people or fewer.

The wards are: Hanover and Elm Grove, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Queen’s Park, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean and St Peter’s and North Laine The law does not apply to such houses set up before April 2013.

Cllr Alan Robins, chairman of the tourism, development and culture committee, said: “We’re very aware that the issue of shared houses is a concern in the city. Students and the universities bring big cultural and economic benefits. But there’s no doubt that many HMO occupants will have quite different lifestyles and priorities to their neighbours. We need to be careful that doesn’t start to change the character of an area for the worse.”

The council said in most cases a warning letter is enough to get an unauthorised HMO closed. However, this year 12 enforcement notices have been issued.

The figures come in a new report to the council’s tourism, development and culture committee today (September 21).

In the key five wards, planning permission would generally be refused if a new HMO would mean an over-concentration of such premises. The tipping point is where a new HMO would raise the proportion of shared houses within 50m above 10 per cent.

For houses with more than six unrelated people sharing, planning permission is needed all over the city. All HMOs also need a licence from the council’s environmental health or private sector housing departments.