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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    Fire Risk Assessment & HMO License Inspection

    Hi,

    After applying for an HMO license, I understand that an Environmental Health Officer will come to assess my property and suggest any upgrades needed to obtain a license.

    If I am currently renting out rooms, and I have my safety certificates for gas, electrics and fire alarm system up to date do I also need to pay for an independent fire risk assessment or can I wait for the Environmental Health Officer to arrive to tell me which upgrades are required?

    Many thanks for your advice,

    Will

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    Hi Will,

    Did you have the HMO licence prior or is this the first time it has been introduced in the borough and your property now comes under their radar as needing the licence.

    The reason I ask that is you already have a fire alarm installed.  Was this instaled before or you just installed it when you applied for it.

    Which borough is it? Depending on the Borough(or may be all of them) they require you not to install/work on anything before the EHO comes round.  At least thats what I was told when I applied for Additional HMO licence in my Camden Borough.  I was pushed into it as there s257 aserts it.

    If you haven't seen a Schedule of works to be completed with all the Regs. to be followed.  It is comprehensive, at least to my liking.  I was overwhelmed with it.  To understand what goes into managing the HMO's I did a course and I was shocked to hear that the trainer teaching us who is a LL including  SA, but even he will not touch an HMO.  You make the mistake and you are penalised heavily.  Even though my property is not in a sh** state I don't think I can keep up with following these schedules to the letter, and look forward to be penalised unnecessary.

    So much so that I am considering disposing of this and use the money to start fresh or just invest in something else. which doesn't need the Regs. to be followed.

    Good Luck with your HMO venture.

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    Sad to hear such negativity. We have taken properties, done them up and applied for 5 bedder HMO licences. We have engaged with  our local authority early and asked their advice all the way and found them very helpful. We are going for high quality and intend to keep the houses for decades (or until dispossessed by Corbyn) so worth doing well. We are probably seeking to do two more this year. Don't give up!

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    Hi Dutchnick.

    Thanks for the word of encouragement. I didn't give up and I still haven't given up unto point.  My situation is completely different from your.  I should have give a bit more brief about it.

    I got this (I only have one) property in 2006.  It was converted at the turn of the century.  There are 3 flats all self contained and all they share is the entrance to go in their respective flats.  There is also a shop on the Ground Fl. front of the property not part of this HMO licence. Two of the 3 flats are on a long 125 lease.  Still over 107yrs are left on it.  The 3rd flat and the shop I own it as a free holder.

    I never thought this type of property would fall under the HMO.  I intentionally did not want to buy any property which were HMO at that time.

    In 2015 Camden introduced the HMO licenc and went after all the landlords.  They informed me I will need a Additional HMO Licence. This is because of the s257 states i) any property over 3 stories high also  ii) 2/3rd of the property(not including the shop) are let out and iii) If the property doesn't have a Building Control completion Certificate there has to be an application filed for the HMO.

    I went back and fourth arguing how is this a HMO with the council and other bodies.  There is nothing shared but the hall way to the flats.  One of the HMO licence officer said it always has been an HMO, it is just that you have just found out about it.

    Hence I was pushed into applying for the A.HMO licence.  I had to apply for the common part and my flat I own.

    When I did apply for it I thought they were just going to tell me to install the Fire Alarm and get the certificates to the common parts. But when the EHO came he wants me to change the layout of the Ensuite shower in the bedroom and join it with the adjoining toilet to make it a bit larger. Also he wants me to make the kitchen and adjoining living room  as open plan to give it a bigger spacious look, according to them the kitchen size is too small.  There are other bits and bobs to be done in the flat apart from the standard regs that go with the BTL(ie GSC Elec Cert etc.). The cost on the flat is going to be too big for me to afford it at this stage. Even if I find the finance the management side of it scares me at this stage.

    I applied in Aug 2017. EHO came in May 2018 and The Schedule came in Sep 2018. I have one year to complete the essential.

    I DON't want to leave it as the rent is paying just about my mortgage.  If I had enough money to train up with a HMO expert or even pass it on to some one trust worthy who can manage it for me I would.  But since receiving the schedule I was overwhelmed. Trying to understand this legal document(which it is) I don't know what to do hence going for the course.  Over the Christmas period I have been thinking the options.

    1. Time is my enemy.  If I was given two years to complete it I could have probably been ok. Educated my self got someone to help me out in efficiently managing it.

    2. Getting rid of it and start fresh.  I might be able to educate my self on HMO better and team up with someone.

    I only have few months to raise the funds or dispose of it, other wise it is getting too close to Sep to show the first phase of the licence is complete.

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    You don’t have to get an independent fire risk assessment and can wait for the EHO. I would suggest you search out a copy of the LACORS fire safety guidance and take a look at this and work out what your property does not have as this is the standard the EHO will be looking for. That way you can get a head start on what needs doing.

    Frankly, I don’t see the point of a letting trainer who is so useless that his only reply to HMOs is to say not to touch them.

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    David Smith
    Landlord & Tenant Solicitor
    Anthony Gold Solicitors

    Find me on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/dsnsmith

    All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my firm. No comment made should be taken as legal advice and you should consult a solicitor or other legal professional for advice on your specific situation.

    agreed.  this trainer shouldnt be a trainer.  I found the quality of trainer was v poor when I did my LA accreditation course too.

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    I think you are correct that an independent fire risk assessment is not required but I disagree that a landlord can wait for an HMO inspection. Paragraphs 6 & 9 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires a fire risk assessment on any domestic property that is let as anything other than a single family dwelling. The HMO inspection may not be carried out in a timely manner (it took nearly 2 years for my first HMO to be inspected).

    OP: If you feel confident then you can carry out the inspection yourself but I would recommend getting one carried out professionally the first time and then reviewing it yourself every year (assuming no major works). It will look good to the HMO inspector if you produce the FRA at the inspection with a schedule of work to implement the recommendations (particularly if some of them are completed).

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    Thanks again for the good practical advice qweasdzxc!

    After reading your post my plan is:

    1.) ask fire & rescue if they can review my risk assessment and escape plan with me and add recommended additions for free,

    2.) If they can't I'll ask the council if an independent review is required and if it is I'll get it done.

    Does that sound sensible to you?

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

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    The fire brigade have been very helpful to me when I have been to them for advice but they probably won't have time to carry out a review for you. As I said before, I would recommend you get one carried out professionally the first time. Your local council may have a service to do this which makes it difficult for the HMO inspector to disagree with it.

    You would be able to use the professional FRA as a template for your annual reviews.

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    A lot depends on the size and layout of the property; how many rooms does it have, are there any internal rooms, what are the fire escape routes, are fire fire doors and casings suitable, will the protected route out provide 30 minutes fire safety, etc.  Without more detail it is difficult to give a full answer to your queries, although I agree with previous comments about the poor training.

    A FRA will be required in some form, but not necessarily one done by a "professional" (see above). HHSRS and HMO licensing conditions require you to take regard to fire safety and to show that you have been reasonable in your actions.  It is the degree of proof of reasonableness that causes the problems as some Council officers take different views than others.  The same officer will often take a different view when inspecting a property run by an experienced HMO manager verses an inexperienced one - not fair but true in my experience.

    My advice would be to read up on LACORS and get all your paperwork in order before the inspection, with copies for the officer.  Go in with an open mind and listen to their advice as most of them are actually pretty good.    If you disagree with their recommendations then fight your corner and ask them to validate the work they require you to do.  However, at the end of the process remember that they are the regulating authority so either you do what they want or you don't get your HMO licence.

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    Andrew McCausland

    Managing Director Hamilton Square Estates Ltd

    Proprietor Wirral Property Group

    Sourcing and renovating investment property since 1994


    Your final sentence actually says it in a nutshell Andrew  -  whether their demands make sense or not, whether the cost involved is proportional or not and whether a lovely room goes unused or not it doesn't matter to them because they are in a position of ultimate power and they are not affected and their backs are covered.

    Comply with the demands or don't get a licence it's as simple as that.

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