Agenda item


            (Councillor Anglin, having declared an interest in the item, did not participate in the discussion and left the meeting at this point)


            The Houses in Multiple Occupation Manager provided the Committee with the details of the application.  He explained that the property had had the benefit of an HMO licence having been issued by the NI Housing Executive in the nameof the of the previous owner, a relative of the applicant.  However, on 18th June, 2020, the ownership of the accommodation transferred to Mr. A. Watkinsand, in accordance with section 28(2) of the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act, the existinglicence ceased to have effect on that date.


On 6th June, 2023, an HMO licence application was received from the owner of the accommodation.  The Committee was advised that, had the new owner 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 time as their application had have 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.


He confirmed to the Committee, 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”) had been granted on 16th March, 2021.


It was reported that the NIHMO Unit had consulted with Environmental Protection Unit in relation to 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. 


The Committee was advised that one noise warning notice had been issued, relating to nighttime noise at the property, on 20th August 2023.  Officers were not aware of any issues relevant to the Applicant’s fitness.


No objections were received in relation to this 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 Area (HMA) “2/17 Sandymount”, as defined in the Council’s Local Development Plan Strategy, which had been formally adopted on 2nd May, 2023.


Legal Services had advised that there was a clear requirement upon the Council, in Section 8 of the 2016 Act,to be satisfied that the granting of a licence would not result in overprovision.  In making such a decision, the Council 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.”


It was reported that, on the date of assessment, 18th August, 2023, 77% of all dwelling units in policy area HMA 2/17 Sandymount” were made up of HMOs and flats/apartments, which in turn exceeded the 20% development limit as set out at Policy HOU10.  There were 114 (66%) licensed HMOs with a capacity of 502 persons in HMA 2/17 Sandymount.


There were a total of 172 dwelling units in “HMA 2/17 Sandymount”.  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.


The Committee was advised that, 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.  The HMO Manager added that anecdotal evidence from previous conversations with HMO managing agents suggested 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.


The Chairperson welcomed Mr. W. Sinton, Legal representative for the applicant, and Mr. A. Watkins, Applicant, to the meeting. 


Mr. Sinton advised the Committee that there were particular personal circumstances which the Committee should be mindful of.  He outlined that the property had been transferred to the Applicant from his mother, Mrs. Watkins, in June 2020.  He highlighted that Mrs. Watkins had moved out of her family home at that time in order to care for her elderly father who had dementia and for her mother who was seriously ill with cancer.  He explained that, due to the travel restrictions which had been in place at that time, and additionally because her husband, a Consultant Paediatrician, was still seeing patients, Mrs. Watkins had been unable to access the records for the HMO property. 


He highlighted that Mrs. Watkins had acted in good faith in transferring the property to her son and that it was her understanding that the HMO licence would transfer with it.  Indeed, she had written to the NI Housing Executive in April 2020 to advise it of her intentions.  No response had been received and her correspondence had not been forwarded to the Council.  The Committee was advised that, had NIHE or the Council responded to advise Mrs. Watkins that the transfer of the licence was not possible, there would have been a sufficient period of time in which she could have sought a new HMO licence under Section 28 of the HMO Act NI 2016, before the overprovision limits had taken effect.  He added that the granting of a licence to the applicant would not result in a net increase in HMOs in the area, given the previous licence. The Committee was also reminded that Mr. A. Watkins had obtained a CLEUD subsequent to the transfer of the property.


A Member stated that there had been a history of bad planning decisions in relation to HMO applications in the area in question, with a number of issues regarding waste and cleansing.  He highlighted that there had been three years between the transfer of ownership of the property and an application for a licence being submitted.


A further Member added that, while sympathetic to the former owner’s difficult circumstances, three years was not an insignificant period of time and that 66% of licensed HMOs was substantially above the 20% limit as established in Policy HOU10.


After discussion, it was


Moved by Councillor Murray,

Seconded by Councillor Ó Néill 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 is 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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