Tougher rules on Norwich landlords

Sarah HallNew powers which mean landlords will have to seek planning permission if they want to turn houses into shared rented property have been welcomed by a Norwich MP.Sarah Hall

New powers which mean landlords will have to seek planning permission if they want to turn houses into shared rented property have been welcomed by a Norwich MP.

But landlords have accused the government of 'using a sledgehammer to crack a nut' and warned it could lead to a shortage of homes for students.

The government has announced that, from April, councils will be given new planning powers which mean landlords who want to use houses as shared properties for three or more people will need to secure planning permission.

At the moment planning permission is only needed to convert larger properties with five or more occupants and three storeys.

Charles Clarke, Norwich South MP, has been campaigning to get action taken on landlords who allow properties to fall into disrepair and do not tackle problems caused by their tenants.

He also raised concerns about landlords who charge high rents for poor quality housing, highlighting one example where a landlord had converted a bungalow so they could shoehorn eight students into it and pocket �26,000 a year from that single property.

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Mr Clarke said: 'I very much welcome the new approach which has been announced by the government. It is very important to ensure that rented accommodation in Norwich is properly regulated so that the community is strengthened.'

But landlords were not so welcoming to the changes, warning it could put some landlords off from offering housing for students or force them to up their rents.

Derek Leach, executive officer for Norwich-based Eastern Landlords Association, said: 'The general consensus is all this will do is force landlords to put up their rents to cover the extra costs in getting this permission and it could drive some landlords out of providing student housing.

'This is a case of the government using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There's plenty of legislation already which can deal with issues, such as through environmental health departments and they do not need to heap more legislation on top of it.'

A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said: 'We are aware of these proposals, but their implications won't be fully clear until we can see details of the proposed legislation.

'The change may increase the number of applications for planning permission received but we are confident that we will be able to deal with the workload without compromising our service.'

Housing minister John Healey said: 'The Government recognises the important contribution houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) make to the private rented sector.

'They provide housing to meet the needs of specific groups and households and make a contribution to the overall provision of affordable housing stock.

'However, localised problems caused by high concentrations of HMOs have been highlighted as concerns in some towns and cities across the country.'

Are you a landlord aghast at the move? Or do you support the changes? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email