A landlord has slammed his local council for charging a student accommodation block he runs nearly £45,000 under its selective licensing scheme.
Middlesbrough accommodation provider 'Linthorpe Hall 248' houses 250 mainly international students within 52 clusters of flats and apartments with shared facilities but, despite being a PBSA, has been told it needs 52 separate licences for the building at £836 each.
Middlesbrough Council says the building was eligible when the scheme launched, but Linthorpe Property Management’s group property manager, Gareth Stobart (main picture), only found out about it last year.
“We’re a PBSA and the council could exempt us but instead they are gunning for us,” he tells LandlordZONE. “I believe we’re the only PBSA in the country being made to pay a fee like this. Why aren’t the university-operated buildings being classed as HMOs?”
Stobart explains that after taking a big hit during Covid when it had two years without income, it hasn’t made a profit operating the building in 10 years. The firm has appealed against the fee and offered to pay monthly, but this was refused. It has now managed to pay half the bill but says it is still treading water financially.
“It’s a low-income area and students scrape together the money to afford fees – we can’t increase rents in the middle of the year so we’re just going to have to absorb it.”
He adds: “It’s just unfair. The scheme is supposed to prevent anti-social behaviour but unlike some other student properties, we’ve never had a complaint about that.”
Middlesbrough Council told Teesside Live the building is included in the scheme because it is privately owned and operated and “does not meet the exemption for student accommodation managed or controlled by an educational establishment”.
It insists it wrote to the owners of Linthorpe Hall 248 in October 2020 to notify them that they were legally required to have a licence, following a consultation period.
Picture credit: Gareth Stobart