Councillors pledge to change ‘toothless’ HMO rules

Portsmouth City Council is looking at restricting the number of house of multiple occupation in the city
Portsmouth City Council is looking at restricting the number of house of multiple occupation in the city
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FRUSTRATED councillors have vowed to change 'toothless' rules that have led to more and more shared homes in the city.

A planning loophole in Portsmouth currently means that any homes becoming what is known as a sui generis house in multiple occupation (HMO) do not have to abide by the same rules as other HMOs.

These include refusal of planning permission where it would result in more than 10 per cent of houses within a 50-metre radius being shared homes.

As a result many sui generis HMOs that are refused by the city's planning team are then approved by a government inspector at appeal since there are no legal grounds for rejection, costing the council valuable funds.

For the council's deputy leader, Councillor Steve Pitt, it was important that this process changed. 'We want to make it clear to the public that we are as fed up with this as they are,' he said.

'If we enforce the policy as it currently stands it is quite clear the inspector is able to overturn our refusals and waste taxpayers' money. We all agree cross-party that this is wrong and we all want to find a solution.

'We are trying to review our supplementary planning document (SPD) so that the change can be upheld.'

Read more: Stricter rules on HMOs imposed

Chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Hugh Mason, agreed. Speaking at a meeting last week he said: 'If we keep bringing the idea that we can refuse applications from C4 HMOs to sui generis HMOs we giving false hope to those local objectors, risking cost from the planning inspectorate and risking the planning inspectorate deciding that we are not fit for planning purpose and to stop us from being a planning authority.'

One homeowner, Christine Candy, of Darlington Road attended the planning committee last week to object to a seven-bedroom sui generis HMO in her street. She said: 'It says in the application that there is no difference to being next to an HMO than being next to a large family, but this is ridiculous.

'With a family home there's management, there's organisation, they aren't noisy and you don't end up with rubbish left out in forecourts. That is happening in HMOs.

'It's not fair. We pay our council tax so we should be able to live in a road that is not an eyesore.'

Read more: Unauthorised HMOs found in Portsmouth

Recently Portsmouth City Council has taken a tougher stance on shared homes in other ways.

As of August last year developers were no longer be able to build three or more HMOs in a row or build HMOs either side of residential homes.

An online register of HMOs that residents can use to check whether shared housing in their road is known to the council has also been created.

Read more: Fines for ‘messy’ HMOs