Southend HMO operated for 21 years without permission

THE death of an elderly man has revealed he ran an HMO in Southend for more than 21 years without planning permission.

The run-down house in multiple occupation at 222 Southchurch Road had been allowed to deteriorate badly over the years but was used for bedsits for more than two decades.

A retrospective planning application has been submitted to Southend Council to allow the property to continue as an eight-bedroom HMO.

The property was put up for auction in July with a £500,000 price tag. It was advertised as having eight self-contained rooms, two bathrooms and a manager’s flat.

APS Design Associates, which submitted the application on behalf of the owners, said: “The property has been used as an HMO/bedsits for over 21 years and was run by an elderly gentleman, who has since passed away. Very little maintenance on the building, and on the rooms themselves, has been carried out for over a long period.

“The applicant is intending to invest a considerable sum in providing quality, affordable accommodation, which is badly needed. As there appears to be no official planning permission sought and obtained of the use of the building as an HMO.”

Failing to have a HMO licence is a criminal offence and subject to an unlimited fine.

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, said: “There is a real failure in oversight and one of the things I have repeatedly brought up is that there is a preponderance of HMOs. My suspicion is that this isn’t the only one operating on the quiet.

“In terms of licensing HMOs, the department is under resourced. They can’t take them down the way they should be doing. The new selective licensing scheme will give the council extra resources for these things. I’m not against HMOs per se but there has got to be better regulation or there is the potential for exploitation.”

A council spokesperson said: “The national planning system recognises and allows for the submission of retrospective planning applications. There is currently a retrospective planning application submitted in relation to this HMO that is going through the process.

“A list of licenced houses of multiple occupancy is available on the council website should any residents wish to confirm the status of the property in which they are living.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter