Agenda item


            The HMO Unit Manager submitted for the Committee’s consideration the following report:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1       To consider an application for a Licence permitting the use of premises as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).



Application No.


Managing Agents

34 Sandhurst Gardens, Belfast,



Mr Daniel Brennan and Mr Patrick Quinn

Giant Property Limited


1.2       Members are reminded that licences are issued for a 5-year period with standard conditions. Where it is considered necessary to do so, the Committee can also impose special conditions. 


2.0       Recommendation


2.1       Taking into account the information presented Committee is asked to hear from the Applicants and make a decision to either:


(i)          Grant the application, with or without any special conditions; or

(ii)        Refuse the application.


Notice of proposed decision


2.2       On the 15 June 2022, pursuant to Paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 of the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (“the 2016 Act”), Officers issued a Notice of Proposed Decision. Appendix 2


2.3       The Notice of Proposed Decision stated that the council proposed to refuse the licence on the grounds of overprovision. A statement of reasons for the proposal was included in the Notice of Proposed Decision.


2.4       If the application is refused, the Applicants have a right of appeal to the County Court. An appeal must be lodged within 28 days of formal notification of the Council’s decision.


3.0       Main report




3.1       The property had the benefit of a deemed HMO licence in the name of the existing owner which expired on the 09 February 2022. A deemed licence occurs if the Council does not determine an application within 3 months of a valid application being received and the applicant is to be treated as having been granted a licence which is valid for one year in the terms applied for. In the case of this deemed licence, officers were unable to complete the application due to the temporary suspension of HMO inspections and subsequent administrative delays related to the Covid pandemic.


3.2       On the 27 July 2021, 10 December 2021 and the 12 January 2022 reminder letters were sent to Mr. Daniel Brennan informing him of the need to apply to renew the licence.


3.3       On the 2 March 2022 an application for a Temporary Exemption Notice “TEN” was received. The application was subsequently refused on the 9 March 2022 as the steps specified in the application were not sufficient to secure that the property ceased to be an HMO.


3.4       On the 11 March 2022 a further TEN application was received and granted on the 18 March 2022.


3.5       On the 09 May 2022 an HMO licence application was received from the owners of the accommodation.  


Key Issues


3.6       Pursuant to the 2016 Act, the Council may only grant a licence if it is satisfied that:


a)          the occupation of the living accommodation as an HMO would not constitute a breach of planning control;

b)          the owner, and any managing agent of it, are fit and proper persons;

c)          the proposed management arrangements are satisfactory);

d)          the granting of the licence will not result in overprovision of HMOs in the locality;

e)          the living accommodation is fit for human habitation and—


(i)               is suitable for occupation as an HMO by the number of persons to be specified in the licence, or

(ii)             can be made so suitable by including conditions in the licence.




3.7       As this is a new application the Council’s Planning Service was consulted. It confirmed that a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (“CLEUD”) was granted with the planning reference LA04/2019/2417/LDE.


            As this is a new application the Council’s Planning Service was consulted. It confirmed that a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (“CLEUD”) was granted with the planning reference LA04/2019/2417/LDE.




3.8       When considering the fitness of an applicant the Council must have regard to any offences concerning fraud/ dishonesty, violence, drugs, human trafficking, firearms, sexual offences, unlawful discrimination in, or in connection with, the carrying on of any business; or any provision of the law relating to housing or of landlord and tenant law. It also permits the Council to take into account any other matter which the council considers to be relevant.


3.9       The NIHMO Unit has consulted with the following units within the Council’s City and Neighbourhood Services Department –


(i)          Environmental Protection Unit (“EPU”) - who have confirmed that in relation to night-time noise there has been no relevant enforcement action required in respect of the HMO in the last 5 years;


(ii)        Environmental Protection Unit (“EPU”) - who have confirmed that in relation to day-time noise there has been no relevant enforcement action required in respect of the HMO in the last 5 years; 


(iii)      Public Health and Housing Unit (“PHHU”) - who have confirmed that in relation to rubbish accumulation/filthy premises, there has been no relevant enforcement action required in respect of the HMO in the last 5 years and;


(iv)      Enforcement Unit (“EU”) - who have confirmed that in relation to litter and waste, there was a fixed penalty notice issued in November 2020.


3.10     The Applicants and Managing Agent have confirmed that they have not been convicted of any relevant offences as set out at paragraph 3.3 of this report.


3.11     The Applicants or Managing Agent have not been convicted of any HMO related offences by the Council. The EPU, PHHU and EU, solely in respect of their statutory functions, have confirmed that there are no relevant, previous convictions in respect of the Applicants, Managing Agent or occupants. Due to data protection issues which have arisen, PSNI have not been accepting or responding to notification of these applications. Officers are continuing to engage with PSNI to find a resolution to this issue.


3.12     Officers are not aware of any other issues relevant to the Applicants’ fitness.




3.13     For the purpose of determining whether or not the granting of a licence would result in an overprovision of HMOs in the locality of the accommodation, and in order to ensure consistency as both a planning and licensing authority the locality was defined as being HMO Policy Area HMO 2/19 Stranmillis as defined in the document “Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) Subject Plan for Belfast City Council Area 2015.


3.14     Legal Services has advised that there is a clear requirement in section 8 of the 2016 Act upon the Council to be satisfied that the granting of a licence will not result in overprovision.


3.15     On the date of assessment, 13 June 2022 there were a total of 342 licensed HMOs in HMO policy area “HMO 2/19 Stranmillis” which equates to just over 45% of the total dwelling units, which in turn exceeds the 30% development limit as set out at Policy HMO 1. The 342 licensed HMOs have a capacity of 1467 persons.


3.16     The total number of dwelling units in a Policy Area is measured by Ordnance Survey’s Pointer database.


3.17     The Council must also consider the need for housing accommodation in the locality and the extent to which HMO accommodation is required to meet that need.


The Council recognises that there is a need for intensive forms of housing and to meet this demand, HMOs are an important component of this housing provision. HMOs, alongside other accommodation options within the private rented sector, play an important role in meeting the housing needs of people who are single, who have temporary employment, students, low-income households and, more recently, migrant workers.


3.18     In September 2017 The Housing Executive published the document “Housing Market Analysis Update – Belfast City Council Area” which states “HMOs form an important element of the PRS, particularly for younger people on low incomes and for single people, under the age of 35, affected by the limitation of housing benefit to the shared room rate. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that this has been a popular sector with migrant workers.”


3.19     On the 15 June 2022, 9 licensed HMOs were advertised as for rent on the website in BT9, of those which represented 34 bedspaces. Of those 2 were within HMO policy area “HMO 2/19 Stranmillis”. From the information provided on the website this represented 8 bed spaces within the policy area.  Availability was immediate through to the end of September 2022.


3.20     A further examination of the website took place on the 12 August 2022 at which time 10 licensed HMO were advertised in BT9 representing 41 bedspaces, 2 of which were in HMO policy area “HMO 2/19 Stranmillis” comprising 8 bedspaces.


3.21     Anecdotal evidence from conversations with HMO managing agents suggest that that there is currently a lack of HMO accommodation available in the locality. It is too early to tell whether this is a temporary problem or evidence of an emerging long-term supply issue.


3.22     The fact that the use of the property as an HMO is permitted for planning purposes is a relevant consideration in determining whether the grant of this licence will result in overprovision. There is an argument that it may not do so as the premises are already being used as an HMO.


3.23     However, it should be borne in mind that planning permission was granted on the basis that the use had been established for 5 or more years and was therefore immune to enforcement. No assessment of overprovision was made at that time. Given the level of licensed HMO properties in this locality as set out above it would be highly unlikely that a planning application for a new HMO in the area would be successful as the thresholds in the 2015 Plan have been significantly exceeded.




3.24     No objections have been received in relation to this application.




3.25     The applicant and/or their representatives will be available to discuss any matters relating to the licence application should they arise during your meeting.


            Suitability of the premises


3.26     The accommodation was certified as complying with the physical standards for an HMO for 3 persons (2 other rooms are below the minimum bedroom size of 6.5m2) by a technical officer from the NIHMO service, on the 28 February 2022. The previous deemed licence had a permitted occupancy of 5 persons.


            Response from the Applicants to

            the notice of proposed decision


3.27     At the time of writing this report the licence applicants had not submitted a response to the notice of proposed decision.


3.28     Financial and Resource Implications


            None. The cost of assessing the application and officer inspections are provided for within existing budgets.


            Equality and Good Relations Implications


3.29     There are no equality or good relations issues associated with this report.”


            The Chairperson welcomed Mr. C. Dolan, Managing Agent acting on behalf of the Applicant, to the meeting.


Mr. Dolan explained that he managed a number of HMO properties predominately around the University area of South Belfast and he went onto emphasise the current demand that existed for HMO properties in the University area, not only from students, but young professions, migrant workers, asylum seekers, contractors working in the city and the NIHE for use as emergency accommodation.  He reported that, often once HMO properties were advertised, they had to be removed from his company’s website due to the overwhelming level of interest that the advertisement created.  He went on to state that the removal of HMO status on properties was only limiting the number of bedrooms that were being used as the properties were still being let but fewer people were residing in them, for example, to young professionals who were using only two of the bedrooms in a property.


He also stated that neither applicants nor agents had received training on the new HMO regulations, whilst Elected Members had been trained, and he felt that this approach was unfair. 


In conclusion, he appealed the Members for a common-sense approach as the property in question had been an HMO for over 10 years. He explained that it had been given a deemed licence which was only valid for one year, unfortunately the applicant, an elderly gentleman, did not understand the process and the HMO had subsequently expired. 


Following a question from a Member asking if Mr. Dolan tried to let properties to families rather than students, he advised that many of the HMO properties were unsuitable for family use as they had no baths and very small bedrooms, he added that families very rarely wished to live in these areas.


A Member highlighted that the applicant had been sent three reminder letters informing him of the need to apply to renew the licence. 




            Moved by Councillor McCann,

            Seconded by Councillor Smyth,


      That the Committee agrees to refuse the application, on the basis that granting the licence would result in overprovision. 


            On a recorded vote, fifteen Members voted for the proposal and two against and it was declared carried.


For 15

Against 2

Councillor Matt Collins (Chairperson); and

Alderman Sandford; and

Councillors Canavan, Gormley, M. Kelly, T. Kelly, Magee, McAteer, McCann, McCullough, McCusker, McKeown, Murray, Smyth and Thompson.

Councillors Bradley and Hutchinson.



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