Bristol councillors have expressed their frustration at being unable to regulate the city’s rapidly growing HMOs, which now number 14,000 – a rise of about 4,000 in the last nine years.

They blame confusing laws and an over-stretched neighbourhood enforcement team for failing to clamp down on the hundreds of homes that are hazardous or in a state of disrepair, causing headaches for neighbours coping with anti-social behaviour.

A report to communities scrutiny commission members revealed about one in eight shared houses contained a hazard that was classed as an immediate and serious risk to safety, such as dangerous heating systems, water contamination and unsafe stairs.

bristol negus

Councillors attacked the complex rules which made enforcement difficult and commission chairman councillor Anthony Negus (pictured) said, “every possible mitigation and ways out are given to landlords”.

He added: “We have a policy in Bristol to do something but what is happening is the national policy and our resources make it impossible to deliver. We are desperate to do this and at every turn we are being told it cannot be done.”

City council private housing and accessible homes manager, Tom Gilchrist, told the meeting that the existing legislative framework needed to be simplified dramatically to help it to take action more swiftly.

“At the moment the legislative framework is really complicated, it’s difficult to pinpoint responsibility for certain overarching offences and then having sufficient power to ensure the person who is causing the problem is taken to court and properly punished,” he said.

Bristol’s private housing and planning services is now looking at how it can improve data sharing between areas of the council which oversee housing legislation, planning legislation and environmental protection legislation.

Last month, it approved a new planning policy restricting the number of HMOs in areas where there are already more than 10%.

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