Normally our April issue contains an article that is perfectly credible but untrue. Our April Fool tradition goes back to at least 2010. However, as the last year has been unbelievable, it should come as no surprise that this 'April Fool' substitute is the reverse – it is totally incredible but true. Here it is: Anyone can create an HMO anywhere without worrying about planning permission, property standards, facilities or the need for a licence.
Portsmouth has an 'article 4' direction which means no one can create an HMO without planning approval. For the purpose of this explanation, an HMO is any dwelling occupied by 3 or more unrelated people and 'creating' an HMO means change the use of a dwelling from a family house or other usage to that of an HMO. To get planning approval, you need to meet certain criteria – like no more than 10% of other dwellings in the nearby area can be HMO's and you need a specified amount of shared space as well as having rooms that meet minimum sizes.
As in all things, there are multiple government departments and they appear to work independently. We have long complained about inconsistencies between planning and licensing or the fact that the definition of an HMO differs between not just these 2 departments but the one that deals with council tax too.The amount of council tax you pay is determined by the 'band' into which a dwelling is placed. A large family house may be banded as 'D' and charged more than a small flat which may be banded as 'A'. These bandings are determined by a central government department known as the Valuation Office Agency,. This all sounds logical apart from a few anomalies. For example, most people think the process is that the VOA decide on a 'rateable value' for a property and then, based on this, place it into the appropriate 'band' for council tax purposes. However, we know of many council properties which are classed as 'Band A' which means they pay the lowest council tax but their rateable values are higher than 'Band D' properties in the same area. This may not affect council tax but it means the residents are paying considerably more for water and sewerage than their wealthier neighbours living in large family houses, as water and sewerage charges are based on rateable value.
We understand that local councillors agree this is a ridiculous idea but none were available for comment. It is also being raised on our behalf in Parliament by Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt.
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.