CALLS for the borough council to enforce tighter restrictions on houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in Basingstoke have been dashed by councillors.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council currently enforces mandatory licensing of HMOs which have three storeys or more, and have more than five people living in them. Licences are given out by the borough council every five years, costing landlords £500, and the buildings are inspected annually.
But HMOs in two-storey properties do not need a licence, and if the borough council is satisfied they are safe, they are inspected every three years. There are currently 32 licensed properties and 124 that do not require a licence in Basingstoke.
In an amendment to a motion put forward at a full council meeting in July 2013, Labour group leader Councillor Laura James called for the borough council to introduce an additional licensing scheme in areas which have seen a concentration of HMOs.
She identified the wards of Norden, Popley East and Popley West as the main areas in Basingstoke with an increase in HMOs and called for them all to be licensed.
Cllr James asked for extra licensing to be introduced to tackle the increased risks associated with the properties, including risk of fires.
Cllr James told the housing and environment overview and scrutiny committee meeting: “There are just as many risks to having HMOs of two levels and having properties sub-divided.
“We would like to see additional licensing requirements because it is an issue in our wards and it impacts on the people living within the community. We are not opposed to HMOs but we need to manage them.
“My concern is that we have, in my own ward, significant numbers of HMOs in streets such as Millard Close and Osborne Close.”
But her calls for tighter restrictions of HMOs were rejected. In his report to the committee, environmental health manager Tom Payne said: “Existing powers and the working practices adopted by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council are sufficient to ensure that appropriate standards are met and tenants live in accommodation that does not pose a significant risk.”
Cllr Steven Peach, borough councillor for Winklebury, added: “It sounds like we are keeping track of things. We are encouraged as councillors to report HMOs and now have a single point of contact, so I hope we have already done it.”