Labour councillors controlling Brighton and Hove council are reported to be writing to the government for premission to charge HMO owners business rates - despite being warned these additional charges could be passed on to tenants through higher rent.
The Brighton Argus newspaper says Labour claims the proposals will create a level playing field with hotels, self-catering holiday homes and lets, but Conservative councillors have warned landlords could simply pass on the added cost to tenants.
Brighton & Hove is believed to have the highest number of HMOs in the country with more than 15,000; many of them are occupied by students.
A Labour spokeswoman told the newspaper that it could produce additional revenue for the authority running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
Council leader Warren Morgan is quoted as saying: “Our universities contribute hugely to the city, we need to find a happier balance between the costs and benefits of being a university town. We are looking at more enforcement and regulation of HMOs but the government needs to play its part as well by helping us offset the additional costs.”
Paul Fitzgerald, National HMO Network chairman, is quoted as saying: ‘It seems unfair to be charging business rates, HMOs are no more a business than a single buy-to-let. If you are going to start charging business rates on HMOs then they should charge it on single family lets as well because that is a business as well, they are not doing that for charity.’