Agenda item


            The City Solicitor advised the Members that the applicant’s husband, Mr. P. Doyle, who was in attendance to address the Committee, was an employee of the Council.


The Committee was apprised of the details of the application.  The Houses in Multiple Occupation Manager explained that the property had the benefit of an HMO licence issued by the Housing Executive in the name of the of the previous owner, who was the son of the applicant.  On 7th June, 2021, the ownership of the accommodation transferred to his mother, Mrs. S. Doyle, and in accordance with section 28(2) of the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act the existing licence ceased to have effect on that date.


On 13th January, 2023, an application for a Temporary Exemption Notice “TEN” was received and subsequently approved on the 19th January, 2023, an extension to the TEN was approvedon 19th April, 2023 which expired on19th June, 2023. No further extension to the TEN waspermitted under the 2016 Act.


On 6th June, 2023, an HMO licence application was received from the owner of the accommodation. If the new owner had applied for a licence before the change of ownership had taken place, the licence which had already been in effect in respect of the HMO would have been treated as being held by the new owner until such times as their application had been determined.


TheHouses in Multiple Occupation Manager outlined that, pursuant to the 2016 Act, the Council could only grant a licence if it was satisfied that:


a)    the occupation of the living accommodation as an HMO would not constitute a breach of planning control;

b)    the owner, and any managing agent of it, were fit and proper persons;

c)     the proposed management arrangements were satisfactory);

d)    the granting of the licence would not result in overprovision of HMOs in the locality;

e)    the living accommodation was fit for human habitation and

                                              i.         was suitable for occupation as an HMO by the number of persons to be specified in the licence, or

                                            ii.         could be made so suitable by including conditions in the licence.


The Committee was advised that, as it was a new application, the Council’s Planning Service was consulted. It had confirmed that a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (“CLEUD”) was granted on 19 May 2023.


It was reported that the NIHMO Unit had consulted with Environmental Protection Unit in relation to nighttime and daytimenoise; Public Health and Housing Unit in relation to rubbish accumulation/filthy premises; and the Enforcement Unit in relation to litter and waste and all had confirmed that there had been no relevant enforcement action required in respect of any of the issues in the HMO in the last 5 years.  It was also confirmed that officers were not aware of any other issues relevant to the Applicant’s fitness.


No objections were received in relation to the application.


For the purpose of Section 12(2) of the 2016 Act, the Council had determined the locality of the accommodation as being Housing Management Areas (HMA) “HMA 2/19 Stranmillis” as defined in the Council’s Local Development Plan Strategy which was formally adopted on 2nd May, 2023.   It was reported that Legal Services had advised that there was a clear requirement in section 8 of the 2016 Act upon the Council to be satisfied that the granting of a licence would not result in overprovision.


The officers had had regard to:


a)    the number and capacity of licensed HMOs in the locality; and

b)    the need for housing accommodation in the locality and the extent to which HMO accommodation was required to meet that need.


To inform the Council in its consideration of the above provisions, the Council had taken account of the 2023 Strategy given that “Nurturing sustainable and balanced communities was a fundamental aim of the LDP’s housing policies.”  In particular, the Council had considered Policy HOU10, which stated:


“Within designated HMAs, planning permission will only be granted for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and/or flats/apartments where the total number of HMOs and flats/apartments combined would not as a result exceed 20% of all dwelling units within an HMA.”


The Committee was advised that, on the date of assessment, 18th August, 2023, 63% of all dwelling units in policy area HMA 2/19 Stranmillis” were made up of HMOs and flats/apartments, which in turn exceeded the 20% development limit.  There were 342 (44%) licensed HMOs with a capacity of 1463 persons in HMA 2/19 Stranmillis.


It was outlined that there were a total of 777 dwelling units in “HMA 2/19 Stranmillis”.  The Committee was advised that the fact that the use of the property as an HMO was permitted for planning purposes was arelevant consideration in determining whether the granting of the licence would result inoverprovision. 


The Houses in Multiple Occupation Manager reminded the Committee that there was a need for intensive forms of housing and, to meet that demand, HMOs were an important component of the housing provision. HMOs, alongside other accommodation options within the private rented sector, played an important role in meeting the housing needs of people who were single, who had temporary employment, students, low income households and, more recently, migrant workers.


On 18th August 2023, out of 62 premises available for rent on the PropertyNews website, within the BT9 area, there were 14 licensed HMOs which represented 55 bed spaces. The availability of the HMO accommodation ranged from immediately to September 2023 and anecdotal evidence from previous conversations with HMO managing agents suggested that that there was currently a lack of HMO accommodation available in that locality.


The Committee was advised that, with the continued expansion of the Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation (PBMSA) sector and students transitioning from private rentals to PBMSAs, it was too early to tell whether the increased competition from nonstudents for HMOs was a temporary problem, which could be managed by the reduction in students residing in existing HMO accommodation within the locality, or evidence of an emerging long-term supply issue.


TheHouses in Multiple Occupation Manager explained that, in assessing the number and capacity of licensed HMOs, as well as the need for HMO accommodation in the locality, officers could not be satisfied that the granting of the HMO licence would not result in overprovision of HMO accommodation in the locality of the accommodation for the purpose of section 8(2)(d) of the 2016 Act.


It was outlined that, on 12th September, 2023, officers had received a response to the notice of proposed decision, in which the Applicant had provided background information into the initial purchase of the property and the reasons for transferring the property into the Applicant’s name in June, 2021.


The Chairperson welcomed Mrs. S. Doyle, the Applicant, and her husband, Mr. P. Doyle, to the meeting.  Mrs. Doyle outlined to the Committee that she had purchased the existing HMO property in April 2017 as an investment for her son.  The plan was for her son to live in the property when he had finished University in the summer of 2018 and let out the other three bedrooms as an HMO.  However, their son moved to Australia in January 2019 and planned to stay for two years.  As a result of the Covid lockdown and a delay in his return, it had become difficult to manage the house as all the bills were in his name.  She explained that, when it was confirmed that he would not be returning, they decided to transfer the house into her name in order to more easily manage the property.  She outlined that, unfortunately, they had not realised the HMO licence implications before they made the transfer.  She reported that they had managed the property as an HMO for over five years and had maintained a high standard within it, with excellent tenants.


Mr. Doyle explained to the Committee that they had retained the rent at £285per tenant, which was considerably lower than the rental value in the area.  He added that they had done so intentionally as they had four children of their own who had resided in rental properties and that they understood the financial burdens they faced.  On Monday he had contacted two estate agents who had confirmed that they would list the property at £1100 or £1150, as a rental for two people.  Mr. Doyle explained that, while it would not financially affect them, it would mean that the rental amount would have to be split between two persons instead of four, with two rooms being left vacant.  He added that they had invested over £50,000 in renovation works, including the removal of the bath and replacing it with two shower rooms, to ensure that it met and exceeded the requirements of an HMO.  He explained that the fact that the bath had been removed had also meant that the property would not be appealing to a young family.  He requested that the Committee would use its discretion to grant approval to the licence application.


Moved by Councillor Donnelly,

Seconded by Councillor McCann and


      Resolved – that the Committee agrees to refuse the application as, in accordance with Section 12 of the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, it was satisfied that the granting of the HMO licence would result in overprovision of HMO accommodation in the locality of the accommodation, as determined under section 8(2)(d) of the Act.


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