19 Oct 2020

A landlady has been landed with a court bill of more than £18,000 for continuing to rent out a student house after being denied planning permission.

Shirley White, of Southgate, London, applied for planning permission to turn 41 Bevendean Crescent, Brighton, into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) in September 2017.

Permission was refused because there were already more than the council-set threshold of shared houses in the area. A subsequent appeal was dismissed and, in February this year, she was taken to court by Brighton and Hove City Council.

She initially denied the charges but changed her plea to guilty last month at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

The bench fined her almost £14,000 after calculating how much extra rent she pulled in from renting it as a shared house for 15 months after the appeal.

She was also landed with costs of more than £2,000, bringing the total figure to £16,298.

Ward councillor Daniel Yates said: “Unlicensed and unapproved HMOs have significant negative impacts on communities such as Higher Bevendean.

“The numbers of licensed HMOs in their area meant that this HMO could not gain the correct planning permission and I’m delighted to see the landlord paying the price for flouting the rules for a quick buck. The sooner this property resumes offering a family home the better.”

The council had refused the application in September 2018 because more than one in four houses in a 50-metre radius were already HMOs – almost three times the 10 per cent threshold over which new HMOs are now allowed.

Planners also turned it down because the smallest room is tiny – 4.7sqm compared to the minimum size of 7.5sqm.

The appeal against the council’s refusal, which was lodged in June last year, was decided in September by planning inspector Andrew Owen.

When he visited in August, during the universities’ summer break, the house was empty but everyone agreed it had been rented out as a shared house, to three students and one professional.

The house was bought in June 2016 for £275,000 and online property company Zoopla now estimates it’s worth up to £340,000.

In November 2017 it was advertised to rent at £1,750 per month.

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