Unfettered growth of small HMOs could be reined in by Redbridge Council’s potential new legal powers

Around 100 protestors and Woodford MP Iain Duncan Smith gathered outside three Buckingham Road prope

Around 100 protestors and Woodford MP Iain Duncan Smith gathered outside three Buckingham Road properties they fear are being converted into a complex of HMOs in December 2018. Photo: Adam Scott - Credit: Archant

The unfettered growth of small houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) across the borough – associated with high rates of fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour - may be reined in by Redbridge Council from December this year.

The council has launched an eight-week public consultation on introducing a planning regulation - known as an “Article 4 Direction” – which would remove “permitted development” rights for small HMOs.

This means that landlords would need to obtain planning permission to rent their property out to three or more people who are not a household, such as a family, and who share facilities such as kitchens or bathrooms.

Planning permission is currently only required on large HMO of seven or more people.

“We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords and improve the housing conditions of often vulnerable people,” a council spokeswoman said, maintaining the direction would drive up standards in the private rented sector.

“The introduction of a non-immediate Article 4 direction, giving 12 months’ notice, is appropriate for the removal of this type of permitted development right,” she added.

A council report produced in support of the introducing the regulation says that, in 2014, 11,250 Redbridge properties were believed to be HMOs.

But it adds that, as they are largely outside of the council’s control, “there no comprehensive up-to-date information” that can verify their total number.

It attributes their growth to “migration and a dearth of affordable housing development”.

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It also shows a correlation between high levels of reported anti-social behaviour, crime and fly-tipping and high concentrations of HMOs across the borough.

Last month, more than 100 residents of Buckingham Road, in South Woodford, gathered to protest what they fear to be the underhand conversion of a former Vicarage into a 24-person HMO complex using “permitted development” rights.

Permitted development rights have also been blamed for the conversion of former office block Newbury House, in Eastern Avenue, into a 60 studio flats in 2014 – dubbed the “worst new flats in Britain”.

In 2013, neighbouring Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Newham and Havering introduced Article 4 Directions.

Asked why the council has not introduced the direction sooner, the spokeswoman said that the borough’s previous Local Development Framework was adopted in 2008, before permitted development was introduced for small HMOs.

The Local Plan adopted by the council last year contains planning policy which “responds to this legislation”, she added.

“This has been a long time coming and at last residents concerns are finally being listened to,” said Conservative Cllr Ruth Clark, telling the Recorder that last Conservative administration initiated this process in 2014.

She added: “An immediate Article 4 would be preferable as there are many issues that HMOs create, such as extra pressure on parking spaces and bin collections.”

“Residents don’t want to see local housing converted into multiple flats occupied by many transient residents.”

The consultation ends on January 31.

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