Brighton & Hove City Council’s planning enforcement team has prosecuted a landlord for letting a Brighton home as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence, in the first successful prosecution by the council regarding an unauthorised conversion of a house into a small HMO.

James Trevor Ford of Maidstone Road, Horsmonden in Kent had made no attempt to secure permission for the change of use of 64 Upper Lewes Road in Brighton, said the council.

He claimed that the house had already been accepted for use as an HMO – however, council records showed that it was listed as a single family dwelling, even though Ford had let the property to six students through the Brighton Accommodation Agency.

Ford was fined £3,000 with £1,270 costs and a victim surcharge of £170, after pleading guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

Council officers were alerted to the unauthorised HMO by residents living nearby. The planning service issued an enforcement notice at the end of 2016, requiring Ford to comply.

Chair of Brighton & Hove’s city planning committee, Councillor Julie Cattell, said:

“This case sends a strong message that we’ll go to court, if we must, when HMOs are let without proper planning consent.

“Students are a vital contributor to the city’s economic and cultural life – it’s very important letting agencies familiarise themselves with planning rules.

“It’s unfair to give students serious accommodation problems by letting them share unauthorised houses.

“We are grateful to residents for bringing this to our attention – we understand this house is now vacant, which means it should soon be available for family accommodation, as originally intended.”

In April 2013, the council assumed special powers, meaning landlords need planning permission to convert houses into HMOs in five council wards, including Hanover and Elm Grove, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, Queens Park, and St Peter’s and North Laine.

Since May 2015, the council has won at least 11 cases where landlords have appealed to the government against the local authority refusing planning permission for HMO conversions.

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