Lyons: Stormont impasse allows HMO problems to run unchecked
Commenting further on the matter the SDLP Councillor for Balmoral said;
“Despite the fact that the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act became law in May 2016 we have yet to see its implementation. The collapse of Stormont has meant that powers within this law cannot be enacted and so the whole process has been delayed.
“The law was passed to introduce better regulation of HMOs by introducing a licensing system for landlords to ensure they live up to their obligations. This would have meant that landlords would have faced penalties, including the potential loss of their license to rent HMOs if they did not ensure their properties were being used responsibly.
“While it is hugely frustrating that council officers will not be able to confiscate alcohol or issue on-the-spot fines this is only part of the problem. The Council can’t control what happens behind front doors and the police cannot confiscate alcohol from private premises. There are few options available to statutory agencies to tackle people drinking on rooftops or in their gardens. The landlords however, those who own the buildings should be in no doubt that they have a central role to play, and that washing their hands of the mess their tenants make is not acceptable.”
“That is why the powers in the HMO licensing scheme are needed. When I proposed a motion to Belfast City Council in April 2016 calling for the commencement date for these powers to be set as early as possible I didn’t expect for one moment that two years on we would have made no progress. However, due to the stasis at Stormont we are looking at a projected commencement date of 1st April 2019, almost three full years after these provisions became law. Frankly the residents I’ve been speaking to in the Holylands have little confidence that even this distant deadline will be met. They’re also outraged that despite identifying and putting into law a range of solutions we won’t be able to use them.
I have now written to the Department of Communities, and the NIO asking them to outline the steps they are taking to ensure these powers come into effect as soon as possible and residents of the Holylands aren’t left ignored for another year.”