New rules could stop spread of 'student houses' in Fishponds

September 06 2019
New rules could stop spread of 'student houses' in Fishponds

NEW rules to put a brake on landlords turning homes in Fishponds into multi-occupant housing could be brought in by Bristol City Council.

The authority is considering introducing legal powers which would give it more control over the conversion of properties into houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

Usually a home designed for occupation by one household can be turned into an HMO – where people from who are not from the same family or in a relationship live under the same roof and share facilities such as the kitchen and toilet – without the owner asking the council for planning permission.

But so many have been created in certain parts of Bristol that the council wants to bring in an order known as an Article 4 Direction, which means any owner would have to apply to the authority first before converting a house into an HMO.

Many HMOs are used as housing for students but they are also rented by people who cannot afford to rent or buy a flat or house for their exclusive use.

The new rules would cover the entire length of Fishponds Road and streets leading off it, plus Mayfield Park, Forest Road and most of Redfield and Lower Easton (see map).

The city council will bring in the new rules from the end of June next year if it decides to go ahead.

A consultation was held over the summer, publicised via notices posted on lampposts in the affected areas.

It is also considering bringing in the restrictions in several other parts of Bristol.

The move comes as the council says it has received nearly £200,000 in government funding for a crackdown on rogue landlords.

The authority says it will use the money from the Controlling Migration Fund to step up enforcement action against landlords who exploit vulnerable migrants.

Part of the council’s private housing services, the Rogue Landlord Unit works to ensure that tenants are made aware of their rights and that their homes are safe to live in and well-managed.

The team also enforces property standards and takes action against illegal eviction and serious harassment of tenants, as well as dealing with private housing trading standards offences.

The council also runs a licensing scheme in areas including Eastville and St George to raise standards of housing rented to private tenants, with inspections to enforce standards and fines for landlords who do no comply.

But homelessness charity St Mungo’s has warned that the licensing scheme has had the “unexpected consequence” of eliminating the cheapest rental accommodation in those areas, making some tenants homeless.

David Ingerslev, senior service manager at St Mungo’s Bristol, recently told the Bristol Homes Board: “It used to be that along Stapleton Road was where people could find the odd [home] they could afford and now they can’t."

For more on Article 4 directions read our Planning Matters column.