The HMO Unit Manager reminded the Committee that, at its meeting in March, having considered whether it would grant or refuse the application for a new licence to operate a house of multiple occupation for 5 Riverview Street, it had agreed to defer its decision, pending further legal advice.
He reported that advice had been sought from Counsel and that, Legal Services had confirmed that, Section 20(2) of the Houses in Multiple Occupation (Northern Ireland) Act 2016 clarified that, an application to renew a licence must be made before the licence ceases to have effect.
He informed the Committee that, as the application had been received after the expiry of the previous licence, the application was for a new licence rather than an application to renew a licence and, therefore, the Committee may grant the licence only, if it was satisfied that it would not result in an overprovision of HMO Licences in the locality in which the accommodation was situated.
He stated that, when taking into account the representations made by the Applicant concerning his personal circumstances for failing to renew his previous licence within the specified timeframe, Members must also consider overprovision, and that, the Committee must have regard to the following provisions:
a) The number and capacity of licensed HMOs in the locality;
b) The need for housing accommodation in the locality and the extent to which HMO accommodation is required to meet that need; and
c) Such other matters as the Department may by regulations specify.
He added that, having considered the submissions of the Applicant, the views of the Members and Council officers, the Committee must make a decision, having been satisfied that the granting of the licence would not result in an overprovision of HMO licensed accommodation in the locality in which the living accommodation was situated.
The Chairperson welcomed the Applicant, Mr. C. Gill to the meeting. Mr. Gill referred to his previous representation to the Committee with regard to his reasons for inability to renew the licence on time, and he referred to a letter he had received from the Council, dated 4th August, 2020, which had stated that existing licence holders should submit their renewal applications online before the expiry of their existing licence. However, he stated that, in order for him to have completed the online application, he would have had to obtain the required gas and electric certificates, which he had been unable to do, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in that, he had been isolating from his parents who were immunosuppressed.
He stated that he felt his actions over the previous two years had been in an effort to protect the community during the pandemic.
In response to a question from a Member regarding the Committee’s ability to grant the licence with special conditions, the Divisional Solicitor informed the Committee that the licence should only be granted if the Committee was satisfied that the granting of the licence would not result in overprovision, and that, the area in which the accommodation was situated, was an area where the number of HMO licences had been in excess of the policy threshold.
She added that advice had been sought from Counsel, which had strongly corroborated that the Committee would have to conclude that, the application would not result in overprovision. She advised that the Committee had been consistent in respect of applications relying upon personal circumstances and that it would have to be fairly exceptional circumstances to depart from that approach.
The Committee agreed to refuse the application, on the basis that granting the licence would result in overprovision.