Rented rooms in York infested with bugs, mouldy and overcrowded

The council may bring in stricter controls around shared homes in the city – after inspectors found people living in rooms without windows, properties with woodlice infestations and a house with 35 people living in it where some of the rooms were too tiny to be fit for accommodation.

Housing bosses say improving the standard of shared homes will benefit all residents – by boosting property values, keeping buildings in good condition and possibly even reducing anti social behaviour.

There are around 3,000 houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in York – these are properties where more than one family or household lives.

The council already monitors landlords who own properties with five or more people from different households living in them – such as large student lets.

But now it wants to extend the scheme to target parts of the city with the worst managed shared homes – but ones that are too small to be covered by the national law.

And council documents say good standards are more important now than ever as the pandemic has left many residents working and living in the same space.

Five tiny bedsits

Examples of conditions in HMOs in York. Photographs: City of York Council

At a student house in Guildhall, housing officers say they found someone living in a bedroom sandwiched between a kitchen and other bedrooms, with no window, natural light or ventilation.

But an internal window opened into a shared kitchen – meaning the tenant had no privacy and it was a fire hazard.

In Fishergate they inspected a property with 23 rented rooms housing 35 people. They said the building was run down and five bedsits were so small they should not have anybody living in them.

In the Hull Road area housing inspectors found an infestation of woodlice in rotting window frames, making it excessively cold in the house.

The council is set to launch a survey on whether smaller shared homes in Hull Road, Guildhall (city centre), Fishergate, Heworth, Micklegate, Osbaldwick and Derwent, and Fulford and Heslington should be licensed.

The report says data shows areas with higher numbers of shared homes sometimes correlate with more complaints about noise, anti social behaviour and waste.

It adds that there is little evidence to show extra licensing increases rent.

Two thirds unlicensed

Cllr George Norman. Photograph: York Labour

Only about one third of the city’s 3,000 shared homes are currently licensed.

Overcrowding, fire risks, excess cold, fall risks and damp and mould have all been identified by housing inspectors in York and licensing has led to an improvement in conditions, the report says.

Hull Road councillor George Norman says: “We pushed for greater regulation of HMOs in 2017 because almost one in four properties in the private rented sector contained category 1 hazards – posing a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety. Under law, the seriousness of these hazards compel the local authority to take action.

“HMOs, along with flat conversions, are the types of housing in York that present the greatest risk in this respect, so are naturally where the council’s focus should be in meeting its obligation to ensure private housing meets minimum standards.

“A home is somewhere that should be safe, warm and comfortable. That people are paying through the nose to live in unfit and unsafe properties in York is a scandal and extended licensing is one way the council can act to put a stop to it.”

The plan to extend licensing for shared homes in York will be discussed at a meeting today later today (Tuesday). You can watch it live on the City of York Council YouTube page.