The 12 steps recommended to tackle problems with HMOs in South Tyneside

Council bosses have set out plans to tackle issues around houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Friday, 7th February 2020, 11:11 am
Updated Saturday, 8th February 2020, 10:03 pm

HMOs can refer to properties split into bedsits, hostels and shared houses or flats where tenants are not members of the same family.

Last year, South Tyneside Council’s Place Select Committee launched a probe into HMOs and services available in the private rented sector.

This covered management, possible links to antisocial behaviour and ‘poor support’ for some vulnerable tenants.

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After gathering evidence over the last 12 months, committee chair Coun Ernest Gibson presented the findings to town hall bosses this week.

The shake-up is expected to improve standards for tenants and boost council powers to tackle landlords, with 12 recommendations in total.

Increased enforcement and more routine inspections of HMOs are planned, with a ‘star rating’ system prompting more inspections for lower rated premises.

One aspect includes mapping the location of HMOs in the council’s emerging local plan and avoiding “clusters” in particular areas.

Councillors have also asked for regular updates on a new model for council commissioned services around homelessness, those with poor mental health and young people.

Cabinet member for Housing and Transport, Coun Mark Walsh, described the commission as an “excellent piece of work.”

“The commission has gathered some very important information on current accommodation in the borough and the role of the private rented sector and HMOs overall,” he said.

“The focus of the commission was to gain a better understanding of the accommodation support that is available for residents and this is something that has been highlighted successfully, in a very challenging and sympathetic way.”

Following discussion, cabinet backed the plans on Wednesday, February 5.

The recommendations will now be passed to the council’s Corporate Director for Regeneration and Environment for consideration.

A progress report will also return to the Place Select Committee within the next six months.

HMO Commission proposals include:

:: A “robust protocol” around placing or signposting tenants to other council areas.

:: Reference to the location of HMOs in the local plan and wider plans for the town centre, needs assessments and avoiding HMO ‘clusters’.

:: Routine use of fines and enforcement.

:: More frequent inspections of HMO premises based on a ‘star rating’ system.

:: A support package for landlords who feel “intimidated by some of their tenants resulting in them being reticent to tackle any bad behaviour within their premises.”

:: Exploring selective licensing scheme in South Shields town centre to help manage the location, suitability of landlords and quality of accommodation.

:: Regular updates on a new model for council commissioned HMOs.

:: Working to share information with partners to identify risks and to meet [tenant] needs at an early stage – including police, probation services, landlords, council services and neighbouring authorities.

:: Working with landlords to build a “positive relationship” and helping them recognise the needs of more vulnerable residents.

:: Use of planning and enforcement tools to manage needs of particular areas, including banning orders.

:: Chair of the Place Select Committee writing to government calling for licences to be required for all shared accommodation.

:: Investment into disused or run down HMO premises through Housing Ventures or Centaurea Homes.