Move to circumvent HMO ban blocked by Fife councillors

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Local residents want to extend the HMO ban beyond the town centre

Councillors have rejected an application by two landlords accused of trying to circumvent the HMO ban.

A suspension on granting HMOs to new-build properties was introduced throughout the whole of Fife in 2014.

Despite this, Abigail Levy, of Elstree, and Suzi Davis, of Stanmore, applied for their three-bedroomed flats, in the Kinness Brook development of Kinnessburn Road, to be awarded HMOs.

As property owners are required by law to hold a HMO licence for any house or flat which they let to 3 or more unrelated tenants sharing kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities, this would allow Ms Levy and Ms Davis to let the property to students.

Both women had already had applications to convert the properties to HMOs rejected.

However, North East Fife planning committee was asked to reconsider the applications on the basis that the flats should no longer be considered “new-build” since they have now been occupied for six months.

It was also claimed that a condition imposed in 2010 (before the buildings were constructed) designed to prevent the properties from being used as HMOs, was irrelevant since it referred to houses, not flats.

That the properties are not within St Andrews conservation area, where there is a moratorium on HMOs, was also emphasised.

Planning officials recommended the applications be approved on these bases.

Despite this, councillors at the committee unanimously rejected the applications, expressing their dismay at the property owners’ attempts to exploit a loophole in the legislature. Councillor David MacDiarmid described the affair as “a shocking situation,” stating that the landlords’ behaviour was “an outrageous way to try to get around the regulations”.

The councillor also commented on the shortage of affordable housing for families in the town, which many blame on the large number of HMOs already in St Andrews, principally occupied by students.

St Andrews Councillor Brian Thomson also voiced the opinion that the landlords were trying to exploit council planning policy, arguing that the Kinness Brook flats could still be considered new-builds.

He stated that there was no further need for HMOs in St Andrews, where their abundance is already having a negative impact on

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