THE former leader of Worcester City Council says he fears a “rush” from landlords trying to open up new student properties ahead of next year’s crackdown.
Councillor Simon Geraghty says there is already anecdotal evidence that buyers are trying to purchase homes around St John’s to get in ahead of next June’s change of policy.
From next summer the authority has agreed to force landlords to apply for a ‘change of use’ if they want to turn a property into student rooms, known as Article 4.
He is now calling upon the council’s Labour leadership to outline clearer guidance ahead of next year to discourage landlords from trying to “get ahead of the game”.
Coun Geraghty said: “When we decided to bring this policy in it was because of concern some areas of the city were getting disproportionate numbers of student properties.
“It impacts upon the character of an area, on the parking situation in that street and on bin collections.
“But a year’s notice was given for it and my fear is what will happen ‘in year’ - residents are becoming concerned about people buying up properties now in a bid to circumvent the change.
“That’s the feeling I’m beginning to get, and I want some urgent work to be done to establish on what basis Article 4 will operate.
“How many are we content to have in one street? If we laid down the ‘rules of the game’ early maybe landlords would not be in a mad dash to get a property now.”
He also said in some parts of the St Clement city council ward, which takes in part of St John’s, streets are already “close to a tipping point” for any more.
Article 4 will also apply to so-called Houses of Multiple Accommodation (HMOs) - properties rented to three different tenants or more.
Landlords will have to apply for a ‘change of use’ which will then be examined by the council’s planning department.
When it was first announced last year, landlords launched a campaign to get it thrown out, but lost their bid.
Councillor Roger Berry, the cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said: “It’s a bit too simplistic to talk about how many we can limit to a street as there has to be planning grounds (for refusal).
“Whatever we introduce, it has to be justified under the planning system.
“Clearly, overdevelopment and over-looking on other properties are the kinds of things we’ll have to look at in terms of planning guidance.”
Estate agents in the city say it is too early to identify any emerging trends ahead of next June.
A spokesman for QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright, in St John's, said: "A few properties we had did turn into student ones at the start of this year, but whether we'll get it again next year is too early to say.
"The market has picked up, but not necessarily for student homes."