Response to Redbridge Council’s proposal for Article 4 Direction

 

Introduction

  1. The National Landlords Association (NLA) exists to protect and promote the interests of private residential landlords.
  2. The NLA represents more than 40,000 individual landlords from around the United Kingdom. We provide a comprehensive range of benefits and services to our members and strive to raise standards within the private rented sector.
  3. We seek a fair legislative and regulatory environment for the private rented sector, while aiming to ensure that landlords are aware of their statutory rights and responsibilities.
  4. The National Landlords Association (NLA) would like to thank the Redbridge Council for including us in your consultation but would like to highlight some concerns with regard to the Direction made by the Council under Article 4 (1) of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.
  5. The introduction of an Article 4 Direction will have an impact on the housing market in Redbridge.  This can be seen from the introduction in other councils, reducing supply of shared housing.
  6. An Article 4 Direction is undoubtedly a powerful tool for local authorities when used appropriately. However, it should be considered as an option of last resort, rather than another tool to be applied liberally and especially across all wards within a Local Authority. The example in Bath and North East Somerset council highlights how the implementation of an Article 4 Direction[1] has stopped residents selling their property. It does not convert houses back from shared housing but rather crystallises the existing housing stock.

Use Class C4

  1. It is our view that the introduction of Use Class C4, in relation to HMO accommodation, is unnecessary and serves only to create greater confusion and bureaucracy for the private rented sector. The Government ‘Planning Portal’ determines that:

“The purpose of the planning system is to ensure that development plans and planning applications contribute to the delivery of sustainable development. This means that the right development is in the right place and at the right time.”[2]

  1. This statement defines the rationale governing permitted development which is an important tool for managing reasonable and justifiable development. However, it is the NLA’s contention that the establishment of a small HMO (as defined by the recent regulations) does not represent a substantial change of use in terms of the burden imposed on local infrastructure. The usage of local services is unlikely to be greatly different for a property shared by three unrelated renters than a family with teenage dependents. This position is supported by the recent Lancashire planning appeal Ref: 100-067-072 which stated:

“The continued use of an end of terrace house in Lancashire as a house in multiple occupation was allowed, an inspector reasoning that noise should be little different from that made by a typical family. The next-door neighbours referred to disturbance from televisions, people moving around the property and doors slamming, claiming that it extended well into the evening on occasion. However, the inspector reasoned that in properties in family use many bedrooms occupied by children, and particularly teenagers, contained televisions and audio equipment. Thus, whilst tenants might be inconsiderate on occasion, the same could be said of any type of occupier. Moreover, she found no evidence to support the generalised assertion that occupiers of an HMO were intrinsically more disposed to coming and going in the late evening or early morning hours than occupiers of other property types. She acknowledged that some tenants could work on a shift basis or during night time hours but given the limited number of occupants she did not consider that the comings and goings would be materially different from that associated with a typical household.”[3]

  1. Therefore, the NLA does not believe the justification put forward by the Redbridge Council for introducing further demarcation into existing housing stock for the purpose of controlling the legitimate use of property. 

HMOs and Shared Housing

  1. The trends in future UK housing demographics along with the current state of housing finance and supply of affordable housing especially with the changes to Welfare, point to a greater need for shared housing/HMO-type housing in and around the city of Redbridge. The flexibility and affordability that HMOs and shared housing provide are critical for many who either cannot afford or do not want the liabilities involved in owning their own home or indeed living on their own.
  2. In addition to young professionals and students, migrants make up an important part of the shared housing market the UK. For obvious economic reasons and for flexibility, shared housing is an important source of housing for these groups. However, demand is not static.
  3. The characteristics of HMO’s appeal to certain groups due to the transient nature. These households are not intended to ‘grow roots’ or stay in the same home for a generation. HMOs and shared housing are popular amongst certain socio-economic groups precisely because they provide a fluid housing option. To remove this housing provision will have a detrimental impact on the economic and social impact of communities.
  4. The NLA believes that the council also has not taken into consideration the impact of the introduction of Universal Credit and the increased requirement of shared housing.
  5. Too often local residents fall into the fallacy that it is the house itself rather than the household which causes an issue. They build up a ‘general feeling’ about areas of particularly dense shared housing, without looking to see whether particular problems have been dealt with. This aggregation of issues, particularly grievances and ‘general feelings’ about a community can quickly make residents feel that a ‘tipping point’ has been reached.
  6. This problem is compounded where residents are not made aware of any specific action taken by a landlord or local authority against a particular household and so are ignorant of any work being done to tackle issues important to them. A council or landlord could be building a case against a tenant which takes time while another resident wishes for redress immediately. The introduction of Article 4 Direction will not alter this process and builds false hope, as a solution.
  7. The NLA agrees that some landlords, most often due to ignorance rather than roguish intent do not use their powers to manage their properties effectively. Equally councils do not use the powers they have to enforce unacceptable behaviour in the community. The NLA would recommend that rather than an Article 4 Direction is introduced, a more appropriate response would be to identify issues and assist landlords to develop the required knowledge and skills to improve the sector.

Justification

  1. Redbridge Council faces a shortage of housing with high levels of demand across all tenures, including a considerable need for rented accommodation. As providers of private residential accommodation, landlords base their business plans on existing population and expected future demand. They are well placed to react to changes in demand with greater flexibility than social housing providers or the market for owner-occupied property.
  2. The proposed Article 4 Direction is likely to erode the ability of landlords in Redbridge to react to changing circumstances and the needs of the local community by removing the general permissions currently available for development. This measure will act as a distorting influence on the City’s housing market as property with implied permission through existing use will be regarded as premium investment assets by landlords offering shared housing. While the presence, or lack of, C4 designated properties in certain localities will diminish the stability of property values according to consumer demand.
  3. Further, the Department for Communities and Local Government Replacement Appendix D to Department for the Environment Circular 9/95: General Development Consolidation Order 1995 (978 0117531024)[4] of November 2010 states at Paragraph 2.4 “there should be particularly strong justification for the withdrawal of permitted development rights”.

Conclusion

  1. The impact of the introduction of an Article 4 Direction in other cities in the UK has seen shared housing stay shared and an increase in rents due to a shortage of shared housing when there is a demand for it.
  2. The NLA would like the council to develop a map of where HMO’s can be developed in Redbridge and the number in each ward? We look forward to a response in relation to these matters.
  3. Again, the NLA would like to thank Redbridge Council for the opportunity to respond to this consultation and hope you find our comments useful.