Runnymede’s Rubbish Policies

Last year we updated our site by adding advice on reporting excess refuse after hearing from a number of local residents about the problems of excess rubbish at many student HMOs.

We established that The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 placed a statutory obligation on managers of HMOs to:

(a)   ensure that sufficient bins or other suitable receptacles are provided that are adequate for the requirements of each household occupying the HMO for the storage of refuse and litter pending their disposal; and

(b)   make such further arrangements for the disposal of refuse and litter from the HMO as may be necessary, having regard to any service for such disposal provided by the local authority.

We also established that Runnymede Borough Council’s guide for landlords – Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation – reflects this and, on page 11, sets out the number and size of bins that it will permit HMOs depending on the number of occupants.  However, a cursory tour of our streets readily shows that many HMOs have not been provided with sufficient bins leaving the occupants with nowhere to store their rubbish leading to excess waste simply being left on the ground.

Excess waste left at HMOs when there are not enough bins

Responsibility for the enforcement of legislation relating to HMOs rests with the local housing authority which, for Runnymede, is the Private Sector Housing (PSH) department of Runnymede Borough Council (RBC) and so the advice that we published was to notify PSH of any issues where it was apparent that an HMO had insufficient bins and that this was leading to issues with excess refuse.

We understand that PSH subsequently received scores of reports about such issues, and yet it seems that little was done to address the problem of inadequate waste storage with landlords.  We also heard that RBC’s Corporate Head of Environmental Services, Helen Clark, wrote to one resident claiming that ‘Our Enforcement policy for Private Sector Housing is to take a risk-based approach’.  She also claimed that ‘the enforcement threshold for formal action under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Management (England) Regulations 2006 will never be met by waste management or untidy gardens.’

Ms Clark’s claims seem surprising though when, on page 12, RBC’s Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation states:

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006

These regulations apply to all HMOs, and they impose duties on managers (with some requirements on occupiers) to ensure that good conditions are maintained. You must ensure that you manage your HMO in accordance with the regulations.

The obligations continue on page 14 where they include:

Duty to provide waste disposal facilities

Managers must provide enough bins for refuse disposal, ensure that rubbish does not accumulate, and make arrangements for the disposal of refuse and litter having regard to any service provided by the Council.

And, on page 15 of its Standards for HMOs , RBC claims:

A person who fails to comply with these Regulations commits an offence under section 234(3) of the Housing Act 2004, punishable on summary conviction with an unlimited fine or civil penalty of up to £30,000 for each breach of regulation.

On the subject of untidy gardens, RBC’s message to landlords (on page 11 of the same set of standards) is:


It is a requirement of the HMO management regulations that all gardens are maintained. Front gardens and front driveways/forecourts must be kept tidy. Trees and hedges which obstruct the footpath or obscure the light from streetlights must be cut back and kept to a manageable level. These are a major source of complaints and dissatisfaction with neighbours and residents.

Where the duty to deal with this, is passed onto tenants in the tenancy agreement, you must regularly check that this is being done. Where this is not being done, you must make every attempt to seek the tenants’ compliance by enforcing the condition of the tenancy. It may be that you can arrange with tenants to use a gardening contractor and recharge this to the tenants. Alternatively, it may be preferable to take back responsibility for maintaining some or all the gardens and recover reasonable costs through the rent.

The duty to maintain gardens under the management regulations remains with you regardless of what the tenancy agreement says. If we find that gardens are not kept in a safe and tidy condition, we will expect you to address the problem. If you do not address the problem, then we can prosecute you and you could be fined an unlimited amount by the Courts or receive a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

So, given the apparent severity of the consequences of not complying with the Management Regulations, one might ask what led Ms Clark – a member of RBC’s Senior Leadership Team – to conclude that ‘the enforcement threshold for formal action under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Management (England) Regulations 2006 will never be met by waste management or untidy gardens’. One might also ask what data was used to inform the ‘risk-based approach’ taken by the Private Sector Housing Team in this matter.

RBC Corporate Head Helen Clark.
Rubbish Policies

When a request was submitted to RBC for a copy of all of the information that it held to substantiate Ms Clark’s conclusion regarding the enforcement of this legislation it replied that it had “liaised with Ms Clarke who stated that the matter was discussed in a meeting” and “the meeting was not minuted” therefore “we do not hold what has been sought”.

So, one might wonder if it is common place that decision making at a senior level at RBC is uninformed and unrecorded.  If it is then, perhaps, that explains why RBC has such rubbish policies – and why local residents have to live among the detritus of Royal Holloway student-occupied HMOs.