A Wrexham councillor has called for an "urgent review" of living standards in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

It follows concerns being raised that Wrexham Council's current policies for controlling the size of bedsits in the area are insufficient.

The local authority's executive board yesterday (Tuesday, 21 September) approved the extension of a licensing scheme requiring landlords to ensure housing conditions are up to scratch or face possible enforcement action.

It came after 127 responses were received in support of extending the measures for a further five years.

However, one community leader argued that the requirements around the amount of living space afforded to residents were not strong enough and asked for planning guidance to be revisited.

Speaking at the virtual meeting, Offa councillor Alun Jenkins said: “Many of the consultees have commented on the need to raise standards and to reconsider the levels of the standards we've got at the moment.

“The report says current standards are considered sufficient to ensure that licensed HMOs are reasonably suitable for occupation.

“Is that all we can achieve? Surely our aim should be to make them absolutely suitable for those people that are going to be living in them and for the people that live around those properties.

“There's an absolute desperate and urgent need for those standards to be reviewed and for the planning guidance to be reviewed.”

Figures presented to backbench councillors in June show formal action was taken against landlords on twelve occasions in 2019/20.

Eleven enforcement notices were handed out to address issues such as fire safety, mould and electrical hazards, while one person was also prosecuted.

Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for public protection, said the guidance on space standards in HMOs was based on national legislation.

Responding to Cllr Jenkins' comments, he said the council could leave itself open to legal challenge if it imposed stricter requirements.

He said: “The point about space standards is an important one, but as it says in the report, they are based on legislation and guidance and equivalent to the statutory space standards in English legislation.

“There was a feeling that if we tried to go beyond those standards then we could be subject to a judicial.

“Therefore, we felt that the planning process was the appropriate way of dealing with it.”

Executive board members agreed to extend the HMO licensing scheme at the end of the debate, with the new five-year period starting in January.

Cllr Phil Wynn, who represents an area on the edge of Wrexham town centre, was among those who supported the move.

He said: “It is pleasing that we're in a position to continue the licensing of HMOs going forward for the next five years.

“Not only is it a benefit to the tenants living in houses in multiple occupation, it's also a way of allowing communities to feel assured that when things do go wrong with the management of HMO, those concerns can be fed through to the relevant officer.

“That sometimes takes longer than we would like, but at least we have a mechanism with this licence.”