Claims were made this week (Monday) that there are around 800 houses in multiple occupations to be investigated in Northampton - now West Northamptonshire Council has responded.
Councillor Danielle Stone, of the Castle ward, said this week that she believes 800 HiMOs are on West Northamptonshire Council's (WNC) list to be investigated, and that she wants to bring in tighter restrictions to the housing market in the town.
But, the councillor said, WNC has not got the resources to deal with the influx of reported HiMOs and that the authority may just be prioritising the most serious cases.
A motion was passed at a Full Council meeting in September to investigate the issue of HiMOs in the town, with the results set to be published in April.
This newspaper asked WNC:
Following the passing of that motion, has the investigation into HiMOs begun?
How many illegal HiMOs are in Northampton and what is being done about them?
A West Northamptonshire Council spokesman said HiMOs are an 'important' part of the rented housing sector but that illegal HiMOs are a 'different matter entirely'.
The council said: “We are 100 per cent committed to stamping out illegal activity in our housing market and we will always take action consistent with the council’s enforcement policy against any individual where they are disobeying the law.
"We respond to each and every report of a suspected unlawful HiMO and we take our duties and obligations in this regard extremely seriously.
"Our policies and enforcement approaches are intended to manage the supply and quality of HiMOs to ensure community cohesion and living conditions are maintained for everyone.
"There are government guidelines and rules which we adhere to and those rules are clear that we must not refuse permission for new HiMOs simply because of the suspected presence of unlawful HiMOs.
"That approach would punish those responsible landlords who play by the rules, and reward those who do not. Such an approach would obviously not make things better and may in fact make things worse."
The council added that the responsibility is also on the public to 'look out for each other' and 'do all we can to prevent sub-standard housing conditions'.
The spokesman said: “We encourage the general public to report all such practices.
"WNC has current updated enforcement plans in place which set out how we respond to reports of unlawful HiMOs."
The council's views on illegal HiMOs are clear, but it is not clear from the response whether the investigation following September's motion has begun. The only process the council mentioned is of a meeting next month.
"The council’s brand-new planning policy committee, chaired by councillor Rebecca Breese, is due to meet next month. The committee’s planned work programme will be discussed at that meeting,“ the council spokesman said.
The council was asked again to confirm how many HiMOs are on its 'to be investigated' list but has not yet responded.