A prominent Dundee lawyer has joined calls for a city-wide crackdown on HMOs, saying that people “are at their wits end” with troublesome tenants.
John Muir recently achieved a landmark ruling that revoked two rental licences after the residents there “plagued and ruined” the life of a neighbour.
Now, following a Courier investigation into nuisance neighbours, he is supporting proposals from licensing committee member Tom Ferguson for a crackdown that could see private landlords who rent to troublesome tenants lose their HMOs.
Mr Muir said: “We have been inundated with people complaining about HMOs. I have had three ordinary people come in with concerns in the last week alone.
“They are at their wits’ end. One person who came to me described the situation as like living under the set of The Young Ones.
“People have huge concerns about HMOs not being monitored properly. The recent landmark case shows that when presented with the evidence, the licensing committee has the ability and the teeth to help people.”
His comments follow those of Lochee member Mr Ferguson, who said that a city-wide investigation into HMOs was needed.
He said: “I have concerns about HMOs and overprovision in the West End in particular.
“I am vociferous when people try to get HMOs into settled areas — just one HMO can upset a whole neighbourhood and that is unacceptable.
“I believe we need to begin to look into the private rented sector and the way it is operating.
“It is obviously a necessary and important part of Dundee. But the granting of HMOs can have a negative effect on entire settled neighbourhoods.
“People who live in HMO accommodation have to adhere to simple living arrangements and social norms in the same way that families do. People have to have a quality of life.
“We now need some kind of system for monitoring the status of HMOs and their tenants to ensure that people in settled areas do not suffer any negative effects.”
The call will cause alarm among private landlords, who could face having rents halved if they lose their HMO.
In June The Courier exclusively revealed how Seafield Road resident Stephen Macdougall succeeded in having the HMOs for the two flats above him removed after the residents there “plagued and ruined” his life for three years.
Those tenants were the subject of at least 40 police call-outs in the last three years and were responsible for flooding Mr MacDougall’s flat three times, causing him thousands of pounds worth of damage.
The anti-social “plague” also damaged his performance at work and his health, forcing him to take medication to help him sleep through the noise.
However, Councillor Laurie Bidwell, who also sits on the licensing committee, has cautioned that most HMOs operate trouble free and are vital to Dundee’s economy.
He said: “Most of the HMOs in Dundee are let to students at our two universities and Dundee and Angus College.
“Their presence in our city makes a very significant contribution to the local economy. But clearly in a minority of cases the anti-social behaviour of HMO tenants interferes unacceptably with the lives of adjacent tenants and families.
“From my experience on the licensing committee, these issues seem to arise more frequently in areas where there are HMOs in flatted developments where HMO tenants are living with adjoining owners and non HMO tenants.
“In these situations there may be a clash of lifestyles. While HMO tenants may in some instances be the problem, they don’t have a monopoly on behaving without reasonable consideration of their neighbours.
“We need to urge residents not to suffer in silence but to complain to letting agents and the council when their concerns have been ignored by their HMO neighbours,” he said.