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Couple forced out by housing regulations
A couple are having to move out of their North Oxford home because of new council rules about rented houses.
Young professional Holly Edmundson, who works for Oxford University Press, lives with her partner Edward Gillespie and a third housemate.
But under new rules that came into force earlier this year, landlords need a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence to let any property which is shared by three or more tenants who are not related to one another.
Ms Edmundson raised the issue with her city councillor James Fry and added: “I currently live in Observatory Street.
“I have been here for three years and would like to stay longer, but in August I have to leave my home and find somewhere else.
“Due to new rules for licensing HMOs, our landlord has taken the decision not to renew our contract and instead rent the house to a family, couple, or single person.”
She added: “The problem is that despite being in our mid-20s and in well paid jobs, it is unfeasible to live without a third person as rent in this area is so high.”
Nationally, HMO licences are now required for houses with three storeys or more, or for houses with four or more tenants sharing.
In Oxford, the council has gone further and is applying the rule to two-storey houses and those with more than two tenants sharing the accommodation.
The licensing scheme is financed through fees, ranging from £362 for smaller properties to £500+ for larger houses and applies to more than 4,000 properties.
Inspections include safety and condition checks and ensure there is adequate space and facilities for the number of tenants.
Mr Fry told the Oxford Mail: “There may be some unintended consequences here because landlords are deciding not to register their properties.”
Leader of the city council Bob Price added: “We want to impose a good set of standards for the 20,000 people who live in HMOs in Oxford.
“More than 1,000 (HMOs) have gone through already, with landlords happy to make the small changes necessary.”
But Lib Dem councillor Tony Brett, who has studied the issue, said: “It is potentially a very big problem with the number of tenants affected in the high hundreds or low thousands.
“It astounds me that what is actually quite an intelligent administration just doesn’t seem to be able to see the sharing tenants’ point of view on this.”
Letting agent Amy Powell of Breckon and Breckon, who acted for Ms Edmundson’s landlord in Observatory Street, said: “I have sympathy for the council because some HMOs need improving.
“But I think there are unintended consequences for tenants in smaller properties.
“Holly’s landlord, for instance, might want to move into the house some time himself in the future and does not want to make alterations.”
Meanwhile Ms Edmunson, and Mr Gillespie, 25, have found a four-bedroom house to share with another couple. She said it was impossible to find a smaller one because so many landlords were removing them from the market.
She said: “It does seem a waste in a city where space is scarce.”
Mark Crompton Smith of letting agent College and County said: “I’m sad to say Holly’s case is typical.
“I am even hearing of young people quitting their jobs as well as their homes as they are forced out of Oxford and back to their parents’ homes.”
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