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'To let' signs

There are around 3,000 HMOs in the Reading Borough Council area, according to the authority’s figures

A council could soon impose additional rules impacting buy-to-let landlords in a Berkshire town.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) has decided to launch a consultation on implementing tighter rules for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Currently, only HMOs with five people or more require a licence but the consultation could see the introduction of an additional scheme covering smaller HMOs.

It follows a recent council study that found issues with HMOs, including anti-social behaviour, poorer living conditions and waste collection problems.

HMOs can provide a flexible and cheaper accommodation option for students, newcomers and professionals in Reading, says the authority.

According to council statistics, there are around 3,000 HMOs in the borough.

HMO licences for properties with five or more occupants dictate that a gas safety certificate must be submitted to the council every year, smoke alarms must be installed and maintained, and safety certificates for all electrical appliances must be available upon request.

A policy change could see these rules being imposed on small HMOs where between three or four people live.

Ellie Emberson the council’s housing lead, said new HMO rules would help the authority ensure “good landlords” and “high-quality accommodation across the town”.

Speaking at a housing, neighbourhood and leisure committee meeting on Thursday, she warned that licensing schemes could be difficult and costly to implement.

Labour councillor Karen Rowland supported the plans, saying that while HMOs “serve a very valuable service”, they should “never be a place where people suffer”.

Independent councillor Sarah Hacker said she sympathised with residents who could not afford rent but voiced concern that buy-to-let landlords were selling homes, leading to even less properties being available.

James Crosbie, RBC’s assistant director of planning, said while reports of buy-to-let property sales were concerning, HMOs had been maintained at a stable number.

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