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Summary

  1. MLAs in the Social Development Committee went through a formal clause-by-clause reading of the Regeneration Bill.
  2. Officials from the department updated the committee on the new rules around multiple occupancy housing, responsibility for which have transferred to the new councils.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

Good afternoon

With no committees this afternoon, that's all for today.

Join us on Monday from midday, when MLAs will be debating subjects such as cuts to the community and voluntary sector, and legal highs.

Committee adjourned

After dealing with the committee's correspondence, chairman Alex Maskey brings the meeting to a close.

Social regeneration

Jim Allister
BBC

Addressing the "social regeneration" element of the bill, Jim Allister asks Mr Snowden to define the term.

"It is anything which will address social problems in a neighbourhood or area - so, that might be to improve health outcomes, or educational outcomes, or reduce crime," he replies.

Naming of sites

Ian Snowden
BBC

Sammy Wilson of the DUP and the TUV's Jim Allister ask about the naming of public sites under the bill.

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs says he is concerned about "significant amounts of ratepayers money being spent on contentious issues".

Ian Snowden from DSD says no publicly-funded project could be named after anyone convicted of a serious crime, as defined in the Civil Service Special Advisers Act.

Regeneration Bill

Officials in the committee room
BBC

Departmental officials are briefing MLAs on the Regeneration Bill.

Judiciary

Roy Beggs
BBC

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs says there have only been 97 prosecutions for landlord infractions, with an average fine of £292 "yet we all know there have been fairly serious situations".

He asks if the department has asked whether judges should "reflect on the level of fine in this area".

Stephen Martin says the judiciary "quite rightly guard their independence very carefully" and "we have no authority to direct the judiciary".

'Fit and proper'

Stewart Dickson
BBC

Stewart Dickson of Alliance asks how a fit and proper person test can be enforced if landlords are able to "duck and dive" to avoid it by, for example, registering a property under their wife's name.

David Grimley says any person undertaking management of the property, which could including collecting rent or drawing up a tenancy arrangement, would have to pass the test.

"We would envisage there will be an application form that would include the landlord's name and any other managing agent who would have contact," he says.

If someone not deemed a "fit and proper person", but is involved in managing the property he says. "that is a breach of the licence so that would fall to the fixed penalty".

'Woolly definition'

Stephen Martin
BBC

Stephen Martin says part of the difficulty with enforcing rules around HMOs is the current definition, which is "a bit woolly".

The clearer definition in the new draft bill "should address a lot of issues and if people still evade the law knowing they should be registered, there are proper powers for the council to enforce them," he says.

Development plan

Sammy Wilson
BBC

The DUP's Sammy Wilson asks whether councils will have the power to limit the number of licences awarded to landlords, to turn a property into a house in multiple occupation.

David Grimley says if a landlord applies for a licence, the council will consider a threshold for the number of HMOs in an area, using their development strategy or "subject plan".

His DSD colleague, Stephen Martin, says that by the time the previous subject plan was applied, there were already a lot of HMOs in the Holylands area "the stable door was open and the horse had bolted".

Under the new system, landlords will need a licence before they can operate an HMO, he says, which aims to prevent a similar situation in other parts of the city.

'Unscrupulous behaviour'

Chairman Alex Maskey asks what can be done to prevent "unscrupulous behaviour" by landlords, warning that lighter touch regulation could have a negative impact on local communities.

He says he was aware in the past of landlords in the Holylands area of Belfast "literally pestering older people, going round knocking their door routinely and offering them, basically, good money to move out of their house, so they could buy them, take them over and turn them into an HMO".

Licensing and amenities

DSD officials at the committee
BBC

DSD officials are briefing the committee on their work in drafting a Housing Multiple Occupation (HMO) Bill.

David Grimley from DSD outlines the definition of an HMO contained in the legislation, new licensing arrangements for landlords, amenities to be provided and what type of properties can be classed as HMOs.

What is an HMO?

View across house roofs
BBC

A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least three (unrelated) people who share the bathroom, or toilet and kitchen. It can also be known as a house share.

Alex Maskey chairs

Alex Maskey
BBC

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey is chairing the meeting. He opens with a number of items of committee business.

Good morning

Hello and welcome to Democracy Live's coverage of the Social Development Committee.

Officials from the Department for Social Development (DSD) are updating the committee on the new Housing Multiple Occupation Bill.

MLAs are also undertaking a formal clause-by-clause examination of the Regeneration Bill.