15 Nov 23

A council has defended its decision to charge a landlord around £43,000 for student accommodation, despite a standard annual charge of £800.

Gareth Stobart said Middlesbrough Council was charging the £800 for each of 52 bedrooms at student accommodation Linthorpe Hall 248.

The private landlord was left stunned at the bill, especially in light of the fact that university-owned sites are exempt form the charge.

The council insists that the flats were “licensable dwellings”, and given that the facility is “privately owned and operated”, it was not different to other privately-rented properties that command a licensing fee.

Stobart, group property manager at Linthorpe Property Management, said he and other landlords were being unfairly treated; “it’s just crazy”, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

He insisted that the building been designated as purpose-built student accommodation but he had been told it would be classified as houses of multiple occupation (HMO) for the purposes of the fee.

“No other student properties of our size are required to pay a licence [because] the council states they are operated by an educational body so don’t require one,” he said.

“Why aren’t the university-operated buildings being classed as HMOs?”

Said Phil Turtle, compliance director with Landlord Licensing & Defence, “whilst it is correct for the council to consider this building an HMO under the Housing Act 2004 it is beyond belief that the council can justify – as it is required to on a true-cost basis – that it costs £800 per room to licence any hmo where most councils charge £800-1000 plus £50 per room.

“The landlord would be well advised to challenge this out-and-out financial greed through the courts and tribunal service.”

The licence, which applies in the town’s Newport area and is meant to provide support and advice for landlords, was introduced in 2019 but is due to be reviewed early next year.

A council spokesperson said Linthorpe Hall 248 was not exempt as it is not controlled by an “educational establishment”.

“The income generated by the licence fee pays solely for the staff who deliver the scheme and the council makes no profit,” they added.

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