Contact addresses for landlords of HMOs are now freely available via the internet following a recent change by Bristol City Council.
Names and addresses of landlords and, where they exist, managing agents have been added to information displayed by the Pinpoint Map, which shows the location of the city's thousands of licensed HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).
The Noise Pages has long recommended that complaints about noise and other issues, such as mishandling of household waste, should be sent to landlords and agents as well as other bodies such as the universities or the council. Now that contact details are easier to find, more residents may do so in future.
Most complaints of noise disturbance by students in residential areas involve an HMO. Whereas students typically live in halls in their first year, from the second year onwards they rent shared houses and flats in residential streets near the universities. Most of these properties are licensed by BCC under the HMO regulations.
The licensing scheme enables the council to inspect properties to ensure compliance with basic standards such as minimum room sizes and fire safety.
At the same time, landlords are obligated by their licence conditions to try to minimise the impact on neighbours of anti-social behaviour by tenants, including noise disturbance.
Many residents believe these obligations have in many cases been ignored and that BCC, as the local licensing authority, does too little to ensure that landlords meet their licensing conditions. Making landlords more easily contactable could help residents push landlords to pay more attention to the anti-social behaviour requirements.
Rob Harris of Redland & Cotham Amenities Society called for such a change only weeks ago. In a public-forum statement to July's full council meeting, he urged "easier access to landlord contact details, such that in turn landlords when informed can manage their tenants."
Previously the details could only be obtained by emailing the council's Private Housing Team, which sometimes involved a delay.
The change, which appears to have happened very recently, comes amid calls for more involvement by landlords in curbing tenant behaviour that affects neighbours.
Several speakers at the June meeting of the Bristol Student Community Partnership, set up jointly by the two universities, UoB and UWE, said there needed to be more effort to involve landlords in resolving problems that cause tensions between the student population and the wider community. This has now been adopted as a goal in the BSCP action plan.
In a recent online discussion between residents' associations, one group representative said: "Aside from the essential struggle to educate the student body about community responsibility, we feel very strongly along with most of you that the central problem lies with landlords. This should be the other issue where as much pressure as possible should be brought to bear."
Another group called for landlords to be routinely notified of any complaints sent to the universities. A third group said: "For too long [landlords] have not taken seriously the impact of their tenants on neighbouring communities."
Many residents living next door to HMOs are unaware that landlords are obliged to give them contact details. A Code of Good Management Practice, which supplements the licence conditions, states: "The landlord agrees to offer occupiers of the immediately neighbouring properties a contact telephone number, address or e-mail address to report any problems."
For more information about HMO regulations and licence conditions, see my Resources page: https://www.thenoisepages.com/resources.
The Pinpoint Map displays several different types of HMOs. In areas with large student populations the most relevant are "Mandatory" HMOs shared by 5 people or more—these have been licensable since 2006—and "Additional" HMOs of 3 or 4 people. The latter became licensable in Bristol's inner-city wards in 2019. The same rules and licensing conditions apply to both types. (Go to the Resources link above to see how to display these HMO types on Pinpoint.)
If a landlord appears not to be fulfilling relevant licence conditions, residents can raise a complaint with BCC's Private Housing Team. See the Resources page above for the team's email address.