Illegal student housing under investigation

Up to 70 student houses across York are currently being investigated by the City of York Council for not having legal planning permission

Photo credit: rachel sian

Photo credit: rachel sian

Up to 70 student houses across York are currently being investigated by the City of York Council. The houses under investigation may not have legal planning permission and the Council are in a position to issue an Enforcement Notice against the Landlord, which would mean that the tenants would be forced to leave.

In areas where there are already more than 10% of houses converted to HMOs landlords will still be able to apply for planning permission. However, because of the Council’s decision to invoke an Article 4 Direction it is likely that this permission will be refused. YUSU has opposed Article 4 Direction.

Since April, landlords who want to convert a family home into a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO), or who want to convert a small HMO into a larger one (6 or more bedrooms) have been required to apply for planning permission. The Council’s investigations include knocking on doors and asking students and neighbours what they know about the history of the house.

Bob Hughes, YUSU Welfare Officer, has said: “We have met with the Council, who have assured us that any enforcement action would take place over a long time period, with lots of notice for any students affected. YUSU will be informed if any enforcement action is to be taken, so that we can ensure that the students are fully informed throughout the process, and so that we can reassure them that they won’t be made homeless.”

Second year student, Hayley Carr, told Nouse: “Looking into whether your house had planning permission was not publicised as an issue to look into back in February of this year. Our house must have been converted to a 6 man HMO recently, evident from the fact one room has been converted to be a kitchen and living room providing an additional bedroom, but I can safely say not one of us would know if our landlord had permission.”

As of today, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Jane Grenville, has confirmed that the University can guarantee to house any students who are affected by the Council’s actions before the end of the academic year. Jane Grenville commented: “It’s important that no one worries at this stage. We’re working hard to ensure that both current tenants and students signing new contracts after February are protected. If any students have any concerns at all, please get in touch with me.”

YUSU President Kallum Taylor stated: “When YUSU advised the Council against invoking Article 4 last year, this is one of the impacts that we were worried about. By working with the University, I’m confident that YUSU will protect students who might be affected; but we shouldn’t have got to this position.

“Article 4 stigmatises students, and lays a whole load of social problems at our feet. Of course, large numbers of students in small areas can create problems, which is why YUSU invests a lot of time and resources working with the community to find solutions. But students aren’t the only cause of noise or litter in York, and yet we’re the only group the Council decided to target.

“The number of students at this University isn’t growing, and there are currently 900 empty bedrooms in the rented sector here in York. Not only was Article 4 completely pointless, but now it’s having a negative impact on students, who have Council officials knocking on their door and asking questions about their house.


  1. Can we just not let them in? This is not an official investigation against certain houses, these are just check procedures. I think tenants should simply refuse to answer any questions, as they have nothing to do with the landlord’s “waste”. Good article++

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  2. Interesting that York Council should invoke Article 4. While ‘studentification’ is an emotive issue for all concerned, York hardly has the same density of student housing as some areas of Nottingham or Leeds. I own a student HMO in Lincoln on a street which is over 50% student HMOs, but thankfully Lincoln council hasn’t invoked Article 4 or mandatory licensing for such properties as yet.

    The author does miss the point a little in this article however – the issue is not necessarily that students are any ‘worse’ than any other demographic in terms of anti social behaviour, the issue is that students make for transient residents of an area. Term time is only 30 weeks, and quite often student numbers plummet during the holidays, causing the local economy to suffer. The nature of students’ expenditure also tends to result in changes in local supply that locals don’t like – there tends to be an explosion of takeaways and off-licences at the expense of other usage types.

    Some fairly academically-robust analysis is available online if hpu search on studentification.

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  3. The use of planning law against student houses also affects all shared houses. Post graduates, young working people – all seeking affordable housing are now unlikely to be able to stay in York. Or indeed any of the other 30 cities which have used Article 4 Directions to discriminate against a group of economically very valuable citizens.
    The Residential Landlords Association has fought hard against this NIMBYism, but many young people don’t vote like other residents. The answer now lies in the ballot box next May.
    Alan Ward – chair RLA

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