EXCLUSIVE Is this the end of London's quiet suburbs?

EXCLUSIVE Is this the end of quiet suburbia? How homes on the outskirts of London are being converted to ‘multi-occupancy’ residences as the trend of packing MORE people into one property shifts from the big city into commuter areas

  • EXCLUSIVE: Suburbanites grow fearful of ‘multi-occupancy homes’ in local area
  • Single homes in London and big cities are converted into HMO properties
  • But now the trend to squeeze more people into one place has spread to suburbs 

When then builders arrived at a beautiful bungalow in Bexley, neighbours feared this was the beginning of the end of their quiet life away from the chaos of the capital.

The perfect little home for a young family or a retired couple was being divided into six separate addresses to be rented out to indvidual tenants – each one undoubtedly bringing more noise and cars to their leafy London suburb.

Long standing residents of the capital’s suburbs have watched in horror as landlords have flipped neighbouring properties into so-called HMOs – houses of multiple occupancy. 

They worry their serene street will resemble a ‘Victorian slum’ before too long. 

Soon-to-be neighbours of HMOs – where homes are split into several rooms to be individually rented out – complain such developments add to overcrowding in the capital.

A beautiful bungalow in Bexley has been converted into a HMO to the ire of locals

Residents worry that the new property will cause an influx of visitors and increase noise 

John Andrews and his wife Anne both strongly object to the HMO

Londoners have shared a variety of concerns ranging from the impact on the value of their property to the effect new cheap Saniflo toilets will have on their plumbing. 

Speaking to MailOnline, Phil Turtle, a compliance director at Landlords Defence, warned that the trend of HMO expansion would continue in the current climate. 

He explained: ‘Applications are rising because more and more councils are introducing ‘additional licensing’ which brings three and four person ‘share houses’ and converted flats into the remit of needing to be licensed. 

 ‘All properties with three or more persons how are not the same family (by blood, marriage or sexual union) are by definition HMOs under the Housing Act 2004 (as amended).’

But with little to no agency in the decisions made by either landlord or council, concerned locals have picked up the fight in the only way they can: by vociferously objecting to new HMOs in planning applications. 

READ MORE: Sorry Surrey, the ‘Reading Riviera’ is the new rich kids’ playgrounds: City bankers are snubbing the rolling hills of Surrey to snap up million pound homes in pretty Berkshire villages to be close to the Elizabeth Line

On Freemantle Road in Bexley, South London, resentment boiled over when the news broke that a bungalow was set to become a six-person HMO. 

Objecting in the strongest possible terms, one local lodged an official comment on the application, writing: ‘The proposed development would attract the wrong type of people… The HMO would result in an increase in antisocial behaviour along Fremantle Road.’ 

On the ground, reception for the six new neighbours is even frostier with locals living in fear their already congested road will become a car park. 

Banker John Andrews, 62, has lived in Fremantle Road for the majority of his life and grew up in a house on a neighbouring road.

He told MailOnline the development would cause a variety of issues.

He said: ‘A lot of the big houses are being knocked down around here, being turned into flats and stuff. I’ve been here since 1960.

‘There are a lot more people living here, it obviously impacts services, doctors especially. The wait for doctors now is ridiculous.

‘I’m not particularly happy, obviously because it’s nicer to have semis with families living there. If it’s an HMO it’s probably going to be single people, potentially more noise, more cars.

‘There are cars parked all around that corner. But you can’t really stop it can you, I’ve not even been told about it.

‘It used to be all just families around here. If there’s six individuals coming in that’s six cars.’

A 79-year-old neighbour living opposite the future HMO put in her own objection to the bungalow development opposite her house.

79-year-old Dianne Bell wrote a letter to the council as a last resort but the HMO was still approved 

Locals are concerned that the road will become a car park due to the influx of people the HMO will bring 

The new rooms that have been installed on the bungalow stick out from the roof

Diane Bell said: ‘I wrote a letter as well as a person down the hill, I think about eight families sent it. Then I sent it with my letter.

‘I said I’ve lived in this house 52 years and the area is beginning to change, it’s now impossible to park your car.

‘The people who teach motorbike kids come along here, they stand there, it’s exceptionally dangerous, and then all the other people are old like me and they shouldn’t have a car, though I’ve got a car.

‘Another six people living in there, parking, is going to make a big big difference to the area. It’s a small house and there’s going to be very little at the back. It’s another thing about the whole road being too busy.

‘I don’t suppose they’ll be making a noise or whatever, but if one of them has a party, if they’re individual people, I just am concerned.

‘They were little bungalows and it seems a bit much because it’s not a very big site.

‘The work that’s gone into it, it’s been for months. They’ve had loads of different builders there – it was in a terrible state, but it was a sound place. It was alright, it was a bit mouldy, an old boy had lived there and it was full of junk.

‘But [the buyer] has to realise on his investment. I just don’t want it for me, and I might move anyway.

‘This area is relatively cheap, that’s why you’re getting all this happening anyway. Because of the Elizabeth Line more people are moving here. The posher areas are creeping out.

‘The neighbours were new and I feel sorry for them because they bought that and then all this happened, so he was a bit put out.

‘You can’t have families in that, can you? If you’ve got one room each and a bathroom?’

Elsewhere in London, the residents of Morland Road are also staring down the barrel of a transformative HMO

Since applications were granted for a HMO on the road residents have been blighted by scaffolding

Locals now fear that the new HMo could threaten their ‘tight-knit community’ 

The Bexley drama is one of thousands playing out across London’s residential heartlands. 

People living on Morland Road, Sutton, south London reported a new buyer applied for a loft conversion, third bedroom and kitchen extension and then edited it into new HMO license, turning the two up two down terrace house into a six bedroom property.

Residents said they were not made aware of the switch to an HMO application.

They claimed they didn’t object to the kitchen and loft developments but weren’t offered an opportunity to object to the new rooms that will be leased out, insisting they would have done.

Local councillors told them any objections to six person HMOs were under the remit of central government, and therefore out of Sutton Borough Council’s hands.

With nothing left in their locker to argue with, locals are now resigned to the conversions and are preparing themselves for car and sewage issues. 

Georgina K, who lives on the street and in is battling the council over HMOs, said: ‘We’ve got a close knit community, whether people own or rent – this is not a tirade about people renting.

‘This is going back to Victorian slum dwelling – six rooms in a two up two down, and each one with a Saniflo toilet, they’re notorious for blocking.

‘From my point of view this is about exploitation of people, and it’s about the exploitation of people at the lower end of the ladder, people who actually have no other alternative but to live in an HMO. And incidentally, I used to live in an HMO when I was a student.

‘I’m coming from that background, a lot of us in this street are, we were all young once and we lived in HMOs, and we dealt with landlords who were not responsible, and I think this is what we’ve got here – it’s about exploitation and it’s about profiteering.

‘I know that’s the name of the game in this country at the moment, in all sorts of ways, but this has got to be stopped.

‘There is a housing crisis in this country, but you don’t solve a housing crisis by creating another crisis.

‘What we’re concerned about is there are two properties coming up for sale on Reading Road, and Reading Road is involved in all of this.

‘We are concerned that since the councillors are saying it’s not our responsibility, it’s the responsibility of central government, then nobody’s going to step in and do anything about these two houses.’

Some residents have concerns about the effects six new toilets will have on their communal sewage system

Despite the objections of residents, the controversial HMO still went through 

An anonymous neighbour said that she was not made aware of the application change. She worried the addition of six macerator Saniflo toilets, which allegedly have a propensity to block, could be disruptive.

She said: ‘The house was sold and we were sent a letter asking to sign a parti-wall agreement, the drawings we were sent to that had a loft conversion and a third bedroom and an extended kitchen, out four metres.

‘We never heard anything else about it, we didn’t hear about any other applications, until the owner nearby found out it’s actually not for a loft conversion it’s going to be an HMO with six bedrooms and six Saniflo toilets.

‘We weren’t told anything about that, at all. We’re worried about noise, these houses were built late 80s, 90s, the current tenant, I hear him snore. That’s how thin the walls are.

‘So you can imagine six Saniflos, six separate tenants, they have boyfriends and girlfriends, it’s not going to be six people there’s going to be more.

‘Then a very small kitchen stroke living room that’s 18 square metres for six plus people, of course I’m worried about noise.

‘I’ve lived in a flat with a Saniflo, it blocks up, now you’ve got six. So yeah, noise, overcrowding, parking permits. And not having a single word or say in it? I didn’t buy a property to live next to an HMO.

‘Most people who live on this street are families, they buy the houses because they’re terrace houses, they’re for families, and now they’re turning a two bedroom house into a six bedroom house.

‘I understand we need more housing, but is it right to squeeze them all in?’

Morland Road runs onto Reading Road, and one resident of the street said the neighbourhood was suffering as a result of HMOs.

The 30-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I just recently moved back to my parents’ house, and we’ve been here for years, and it’s not helping us. The community is basically breaking down over this.

‘There’s less communication and there’s less togetherness. If the house is just put together without warning, there’s no kind of, okay, welcome to the neighbourhood.

‘These roads do get together and stuff, but now everyone’s kind of isolating. Crime is going up, it used to be much better when I was younger but now it’s getting worse. You want to know your neighbour.’

Elsewhere in the capital, once tight knit communities have reported being carved open by vulture like planners seeking to earn lucrative sums on the HMO trade.  

18-year-old Joe Desmond says developers have already tried to buy his parent’s house

A newly fitted HMO on Homersham Road Kingston Upon Thames close to where Mr Desmond lives 

In Kingston, an young man who has just passed his A-Levels and resides with his parents, said a company tried to buy his new home off his mum and dad.

Joe Desmond, 18, lives metres from a new HMO development on Homersham Road and said: ‘You’ve got the train station five minutes down the road, Kingston 10 minutes down the road, who wouldn’t want to live here?

‘But [developers] have been trying for years – we moved in 2015. They tried to buy out the owners, but the old owners were old and had family they raised here, so they wanted to sell it to a family and sold it to us.

‘The developers came and knocked on the door the day we moved in. It was a company. They were desperate.

‘It’s absolutely a worry, this is a really nice residential place and it’s sad that nice houses will be turned into these things, but, you know, it is what it is. At the end of the day, what can one do about it? People need houses.’

And sadly for residents on the front line of the HMO’s, it’s not just paranoia as experts claim there can be very real risks to their property from the conversions. 

Experts say 95% of HMOs are in some breach of building practices 

If a HMO is poorly constructed it can bring down the value of neighbouring properties 

Phil Turtle is a compliance director at Landlords Defence and told MailOnline that of the properties he inspects around 95% are in breach of strict planning regulations handed down by local councils. 

He explained: ‘All HMOs must comply with HMO Management Regulations and the council can and does fine landlords up to £30,000 per breach on about a dozen different factors – so the financial risks to landlords in running HMOs are immense.

‘At Landlord Licensing & Defence, as well as helping landlords get the necessary licences we also do hundred of property inspections to help landlords get their properties ‘compliant’ with Management Regulations and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System as well as Council Amenity Standards.

‘Of the properties we inspect it would be fair to say that 95% have breaches of the Management Regulations that would get the landlord £25,000 to £100,000 in fines if they hadn’t had the sense to get a professional compliance audit and do the work before the council inspects. 

‘Councils now have no interest in advising landlords and are only interested in enforcing against landlords because their finance departments have realised that – because the government lets the council keep all the money they can raise in landlord fines and basically they set the rules, are the housing police, judge and jury and get to keep the money.’ 

But even if the councils are making money, there are many who stand to lose out if nearby HMOs are sloppily built. 

Mr Turtle continued: ‘With regards to property values it can go two ways. Old fashioned grotty-end of the market HMOs (which councils seem to assume they all are) tend to be badly maintained, with too often poorly behaved tenants, and these can indeed depress values of nearby properties.

‘However, thousands of landlords have made really posh HMOs that are of the same quality as posh Serviced Accommodation. These are absolute luxury and with well behaved and behaved tenants (doctors, dentists, teachers, university professors etc). 

‘Where these conversions are happening in areas that were traditionally grotty HMOs it brings up the area and increases values.’

Source: Read Full Article