Move Over Mrs Markham…..for £1,600,000.00

Posted by Zane on 11 December 2014

house sign

Move Over Mrs Markham…
what will you do with our £1,600,000.00?
Article 4 Northampton meeting NLA 15.4.12

At the National Landlords Association meeting last Monday 15th April, Northampton Landlords were reminded that a Stalinist purge is set to engulf the towns HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation). This purge will affect any address where 3 or more unrelated adults share the property. The cost of this per property will be quite considerable
This is due to the perceived “imbalance” in some neighbourhoods caused by shared houses in areas adjacent to the University and student areas close to and including Sunnyside where Councillor Mary Markham is a resident.
As an “unbalanced” result of this unbalancing policy, the entire town centre area is likely to be affected by this meddlesome and unnecessary regulating which the Council admit that they are ill equipped to administer due to the “lack of suitably skilled applicants” being found to recruit.
Not only are existing HMO license holders being left with lapsed licences due to administrative oversight and possible overload, but the cost of re-issue will be higher than that for renewal which could have been possible had the Council been more expeditious. With this administrative background, is there any chance that the proposed Article 4 regulation will be well or thoughtfully managed? Why should there be a cost for the re-issue anyway?
Surely the sensible solution would be to enforce this regulation where it may be perceived as essential, as a light touch rather than to block out the whole town.
This Local Authority not only has the power and requirement to licence HMO’s with 5 tenants and 3 storeys but has the option to adopt measures from the Localism Act for HMO’s where there are more than 2 unrelated individuals residing.
From April 6th this year, if renting to 3 or more unrelated individuals planning permission has become mandatory.
If you have been through the planning mill before, you will know that this at best can be an 8 week tangle with officialdom who can block progress for the most trivial, obscure and illogical reasons.
Some cities such as Oxford will permit no more than 1 house in every 5 in a street to become an HMO even in the less dense outer areas of the city.
But lookout, if you then rent to a single family as the next tenancy, you loose your costly planning permission gained and have to re-apply if the next tenancy is again deemed an HMO. Another 8 week wait, large fee and uncertainty.
How pernicious and stupid is that…and every cynic will see that, yes, this is a wonderful earning opportunity for the probably not so cash strapped Local Authority that would be hard pressed to avoid taking advantage of such a cash gift!
Leeds is the only present and enlightened exception in the country that will allow, once permission is granted, that one can migrate freely between HMO use and single family use without replenishing the coffers of the planning department.
And talking of coffers, the 2500 units that would be eligible for regulating in Northampton at the splendid sum of £640 each will net the Authority £1.6 million (£1,600,000.00).
The local community needs affordable accommodation more than ever before especially when the LHA does not permit anything other than a single room rate for an under 35 single person. These measures may well provoke a shortage in due course.
The notion that there is a wide need for controlling the “balance” of a neighbourhood by limiting the number of shared houses is flawed. People want to live where it is convenient for them. This is a good “green” policy as it could limit the unnecessary recourse to motorised transport if one’s place or work or study is walk away.
What if a family with several autistic children, or children with severe behavioural problems were to move to the neighbourhood, or a large extended family with criminal tendencies and social problems?
There is no proposed control over this and the impact would perhaps be at least as purportedly grievous as that of a series of badly populated HMO’s.
The notion of “negative impact” (on a neighbourhood) propounded by Councillor Mary Markham is again a vague and poorly defined thing and never solely the result of HMO populations. There are many things that could be regulated to prevent “negative impact”, including the limiting of alcohol sales in the town centre on weekend evenings, the prevention of second car ownership in some streets, and so on.
Anyway, having been through this mill in Oxford already, several chinks in this regulatory armour have become apparent to us at Greatlets which we would happily discuss with any landlords who are operating in this sector.
Like paying tax, it can be optional if you are well organised and legally versed. The pronouncement of Judge Clyde in the famous 1929 case of Ayreshire Pullman v Inland Revenue, is to be held close to the heart of most of us in protecting our assets and our rights without the meddling of perhaps well-meaning local government. After all, this measure here proposed is surely nothing other than yet one more tax on all our precious resources when there so many other things that deserving of our funds….
“No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer’s pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue”