THERE has been a huge surge in reports of unauthorised houses in multiple occupation (HMO) with council bosses taking on extra staff to investigate.

In the 2016-17 financial year the number of reports of unauthorised HMOs to Brighton and Hove City Council more than doubled on the previous year, to 192.

And in the first three months of this year, there were 30 new cases reported.

A council spokesman said that planning officers are currently working through 109 live investigations.

The issue has become so severe that the local authority has taken on an extra member of staff to cope.

Special planning permission is required in five city council wards to change family homes into shared houses for six unrelated people or fewer.

These are typically occupied by students or other young workers in their teens or twenties.

The wards are Hanover and Elm Grove, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Queen’s Park, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean and St Peter’s and North Laine

However, the law does not apply to houses built before April 2013.

In most cases a warning letter is enough to get an unauthorised HMO closed.

However, this year 12 enforcement notices have been issued.

Earlier this summer, a landlord was prosecuted in the courts and had to pay £4,500 in fines and costs.

Trevor James Ford of Horsemonden, Kent, had let 64 Upper Lewes Road through the Brighton Accommodation Agency.

In the key five wards, planning permission would generally be refused if a new HMO would mean an over-concentration of such premises.

The tipping point is where a new HMO would raise the proportion of shared houses within 50 metres above 10 per cent.

The new figures came were included in a report to the council’s tourism, development and culture committee.

Committee chairman councillor Alan Robins said: “We’re very aware that the issue of shared houses is a concern in the city.

“Students and the universities bring big cultural and economic benefits.

“But there’s no doubt that many HMO occupants will have quite different lifestyles and priorities to their neighbours.

“We need to be careful that doesn’t start to change the character of an area for the worse.”

For houses with more than six unrelated people sharing, planning permission is needed wherever it is in the city. All HMOs also need a licence from the council’s environmental health or private sector housing departments.

If you are experiencing a problem with a HMO near you, contact the council on 01273 700812 or visit