HMO rules to be scrutinised by councillors

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Crowded houses in Argyll and Bute are set to come under more scrutiny as a result of guidelines being given by council chiefs.

Conditions for houses under multiple occupancy (HMO) were due to be considered by the council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee.

A report for the meeting by executive director of development and infrastructure Pippa Milne states that demand for HMOs is likely to increase in areas like Helensburgh and Oban.

An HMO is a property occupied by three or more unrelated people from three or more families. A planning application is required for a property to be used as such.

Under the guidelines, an HMO licence is required for a house to be occupied by three to five unrelated people.

Planning permission may also be necessary for a flat to be used by three or more unrelated people, or a house to be lived in by six or more.

Ms Milne said: “There is ongoing demand for shared accommodation, including HMOs, across Argyll and Bute. This has been increasing in recent times with the highest demand for shared flats and houses.

“Even where the levels are not particularly high in relation to the number of households within a settlement, a cluster of HMOs within a street may cause amenity issues dependent on the circumstances. This increase is liable to continue into the future.

“There is the potential for an increase in applications for HMOs in Oban/Dunbeg related to growing the further education offer, including University Town and Scottish Association for Marine Science.

“Also workers’ accommodation in relation to the proposed National Planning Framework Project at Cruachan Dam and in the wider Helensburgh and Lomond area related to the Maritime Change Project.

“It is therefore useful to provide non-statutory planning guidance to help with the determination of planning applications for HMOs. This will provide clarity and certainty on what issues will be considered when assessing planning applications for HMOs.

“It also supports a co-ordinated approach by the council to HMOs by planning and environmental health, who deal with the licensing of HMOs.”

A technical note which is recommended for approval by PPSL committee members states that an HMO licence can last up to three years.

It is also a criminal offence to operate such a property without a licence, and there are standards to be met by both the property and the owner.

The guidance also said: “Argyll and Bute Council is committed to ensuring that a balance is maintained across the housing system and within different tenures.

“Whilst recognising that HMOs provide a valuable source of accommodation and a crucial housing option for many people, it is also noted that higher concentrations of HMOs can lead to a range of cultural, social, physical and economic changes in a community.”