‘Absent landlords don’t care about our Filton community’

May 24 2013
Absent landlords

Filton residents have called on landlords to clean up their act after describing a miserable catalogue of rubbish being left in gardens, overgrown weeds, litter and general un-neighbourly behaviour by some tenants.

Filton residents have called on landlords to clean up their act after describing a miserable catalogue of rubbish being left in gardens, overgrown weeds, litter and general un-neighbourly behaviour by some tenants.

A group, led by local woman Kirstie Barnes, gathered at Elm Park to voice their concerns, which were heard by town councillors Adam Monk and Darryl Collins. The residents said that while many tenants and landlords were good neighbours, a significant proportion were making life difficult for long-term residents.

Some protesters blamed the large student population in Filton and the emergence of multiple-occupancy homes while others said the problem was broader than that with the responsibility falling to  landlords to solve the issues.

Ms Barnes said: "There needs to be a cap on the percentage of student lets in any one area.

"We already have a large elderly population and when they go, we will see even more of these kinds of households.

"We have seen the impact on Filton avenue with the number of takeaways."

Resident Malcolm Brown said it was not an issue about students but about the role of the landlords.

He said that people who did not live in a house long-term would not make the effort to look after their gardens.

Protesters said that part of the problem was that landlords did not live in the local area and they rarely come to introduce themselves to local people.

One said: "They never introduce themselves - they are only interested in the money."

Resident Claire Troot said that she had suffered verbal abuse from a group of tenants who played music late at night.

Cllr Monk said that if any household was causing lots of litter, they should be reported to South Gloucestershire Streetcare and that persistent ‘offenders’ could face a fine.

Some residents said that Streetcare would come round but that the problem would return within a week or so.

Cllr Monk also said that while Filton Town Council objects to any homes of multiple occupancy, South Glos needs to take each application on merit.

On Facebook, South Glos councillor Roger Hutchinson said: "Over the years we have refused applications which result in the applicant appealing against our decision.

"The appeal is almost guaranteed to result in our decision overturned with costs awarded against the council."

Filton resident Dave Mikkelson says the problem could be solved by South Glos adopting rules which have been introduced in neighbouring authorities, including B&NES. He has now raised this to be discussed at the Filton Parish Assembly on May 28 in the Pavilion at Elm Park and he is urging residents to come along and make their point

At Filton Council Full Council last month I raised the subject of HMOs (houses of multiple occupation) and in my view the saturation of student properties in Filton.

Under current planning legislation if you convert a house into bedsits you need planning permission.

Buy to Let landlords get round the planning issue by using the HMO legislation which allows properties to be converted provided some of the facilities in the property are shared. It does not necessarily mean that all of the occupants have to share the facilities just as long as some do. There is no appeal available to residents when a property is converted into an HMO.

Filton is now suffering from this legislation. Where we used to have greengrocers, butchers and bakers we now have fast food outlets and takeaways, all of which cater for the student market. The rank of shops in the Bulldog area have seven of these. I was canvassing for the local elections on behalf of Helen Johnson and one of the most frequent complaints was the number of student houses.

It is easy to spot a student house. They are the ones where the bins are always left out, gardens untidy and washing hanging up in the windows. Students have no investment in the local community.

Under Council Tax rules any property that wholly contains students are not subject to Council Tax therefore the residents who do pay their Council Tax have to make up the shortfall. It is no wonder that Filton residents pay the highest council tax in South Gloucestershire.

The HMO legislation does, however, contain a safety net to prevent areas becoming overburdened. It is called an article 4 direction which means developers have to seek planning permission for HMOs. The Article 4 direction does not have to apply to the whole of the council area. It can just apply to certain districts, eg Filton.

Many local authorities have used the legislation eg Southampton, Oxford, Leeds, Manchester, Poole, Brighton, Portsmouth and Nottingham. Closer to home B&NES have done it for properties in Bath.

I have now got HMOs on the agenda at the Councils Annual Assembly on May 28 in the Pavilion. What we need is to get as many people to the meeting as possible.