Council's mix-up could see students evicted from their home

Rydal Close in West Earlham, where the HMO at the middle of a council mix-up is located

Rydal Close in West Earlham, where the HMO at the middle of a council mix-up is located - Credit: Google

A group of students could face eviction from their home after a mix-up between council departments over their accommodation.

Letting agents Thompsons owns and runs an HMO (house of multiple occupancy) on Rydal Close in West Earlham where each year a group of seven students rents the property.

Up until September 2020, the firm held an HMO licence for the property which allows seven occupants to live there - a licence granted by Norwich City Council.

However, a separate department of the council - its planning enforcement team - has ordered the agents to evict one of its tenants because its planning permission only allows up to six people to live there. But the council says granting of licences and planning permission are not dependent on one another.

Six years ago, the city council refused an application from Thompsons to change the use of the property to a large HMO, which would have permitted seven occupants to live there - with conversions already carried out to create seven bedrooms.

The plans did not initially go ahead, but once the city council granted the licence - which is listed on the council's website as showing that seven occupants are permitted - the changes were carried out.

Rachel Jackson, who manages Thompsons and personally owns the property, said: "The two council departments clearly do not talk to each other. We went through what we thought were all the requirements and between 2016 and 2021 we'd been sailing along nicely with the property.

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"Because it is a student letting things are sorted out in advance and by the time we received the enforcement notice we already had seven students signed into a contract for the next academic year."

When the notice was issued it gave Ms Jackson one month to return the property to having six tenants or fewer - meaning one of the incoming students would need to be disappointed.

But their fate now rests with the Planning Inspectorate, after Ms Jackson appealed the notice.

A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said: "The property owner was refused permission for a change of use to a large HMO in 2015 but has since exceeded the six tenant limit, meaning there is a clear planning breach.

"This was confirmed from their response to a planning contravention notice which was served earlier this year, so the council’s next step was to take enforcement action to return the property to its lawful use."