REDDITCH has got to keep an eye on the growth of unregulated houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) says Councillor Mark Shurmer.
Coun Shurmer (Lab, Lodge Park) spoke out at Monday night’s full council meeting as members discussed the adoption of new amenity standards for properties in the private rented sector.
The borough has some 4,000 privately rented homes and, while welcoming the increased safeguards the Conservative-controlled authority is bringing in, he warned the council must remain on its guard.
Currently HMOs are licenced if they are two storeys or more or house more than five people.
However below that figure, HMOs have less safeguards and can in some cases be open to abuse by unscrupulous landlords exploiting, in particular, vulnerable people by offering little in the way of support while pocketing their housing benefit.
“If we are going to have more HMOs then they need to be good ones,” Coun Shurmer told the meeting.
“The ones that concern me are unregulated houses of multiple occupancy and it’s good to hear we can control these if we get too many.
“But they can be very lucrative, usually if they dealing with vulnerable people.
“Parts of Birmingham have got saturated with unregulated HMOs and the only way to manage them is through the police and housing benefits.
“So we need to keep our eye on this and take whatever action is necessary.”
The new standards give the council power to widen the licencing remit to include two storey or smaller HMOs if they think that enough action is needed.
Coun Craig Warhurst (Con, Astwood Bank and Feckenham) who’s portfolio covers housing, assured the meeting that if action needed to be taken then the council was prepared to take it.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Shurmer said: “HMOs don’t have to be big old houses, they can be in ordinary 3-bed semis.
“It’s the case that these places are necessary and many are well run, and it’s re-assuring that the council will be regulating the larger ones, but it’s the ones below that which we have to keep an eye on.”