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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    Government proposes to extend HMO licensing



    The Government has issued it's response to a consultation concerning extension of HMO licensing and improving standards in shared accommodation.

    A number of questions were asked, but I am only going to document the ones that will result in a change of policy:

    Government response:

    The Government proposes to extend mandatory licensing to cover all relevant HMOs regardless of the number of storeys (i.e. option (a)).

    The Government agrees with the views of those against limiting this to two storeys or more, who said it would not fully address issues of overcrowding or capture the landlords who avoid the attention of local authority enforcement by letting out single storey properties.

    Consultation responses did not provide strong evidence that there would be a large cost increase to landlords by extending to single storey properties, as opposed to only two storeys or above, as the number of additional properties subject to a licence would not be large.

    Furthermore, limiting mandatory licensing to buildings of two storeys or more (option b) only attracted 22% support from respondents.

    Another question:

    Government response:

    The Government is proposing to proceed with extending the scope of mandatory licensing to flats above and below business premises where there are less than three flats in the building, i.e. flats above shops on traditional high street type locations (as opposed to more modern developments with large purpose built blocks of flats above commercial premises).

    Currently mandatory licensing only applies to large flats in multiple occupation above and below business premises which comprise more than two storeys. These flats pose a greater risk, particularly in relation to fire spread and escape than to occupiers of conventional flats in residential blocks.

    This type of accommodation represents some of the most affordable accommodation on the rental market and is used to house some of the most vulnerable people in society; many of whom have little knowledge of their rights. Rogue landlords exploit these tenants, by letting accommodation which is in poor condition, poorly managed and are often subject to overcrowding; this leads to corridors being used as ad-hoc storage facilities which obstruct critical fire escape routes.

    Licensing these properties will prevent rogue landlords from manipulating this type of accommodation under the presumption that they will draw little attention from enforcement authorities. 

    Section 2: other potential changes to licensing – minimum room sizes

    Section 326 of the Housing Act 1985 specifies a minimum room size for sleeping accommodation to be 6.5m² (70 ft²Wink. Statutory overcrowding may result if a person causes or permits an adult to sleep in a room with a floor area of less than 6.5m²; anything smaller than this space standard is deemed to be unsuitable for an adult to occupy as sleeping space. This standard is of general application.

    Due to a recent ruling by the Upper Tier Tribunal (Lands Chamber) Clark V Manchester City Council (2015) UKUT 0129(LC) local authorities are uncertain whether the standard applies to HMOs, enabling rooms that would fail the overcrowding standards being suitable to be licensed for sleeping in.

    We proposed in the discussion paper to remove this uncertainty and allow local authorities to assert the statutory minimum requirements. We asked the following questions on this: Q16. Should there be minimum national room sizes for sleeping accommodation in HMOs? This question showed strong overall support (79% of respondents); with just over half of landlords and property agents (51%) in favour as well as 94% of local authorities. Q17. Do you agree the standard should be in line with section 326 of the Housing Act 1985?

    Again this question showed strong overall support (76%) and amongst the different sectors, with 86% of tenants and tenant groups supporting the recommendation, 69% of landlords and property agents, and 70% of local authority respondents.

    Government Response

    The Government remains of the view that illegal activity should not be overlooked in HMOs and has decided to clarify the recent uncertainty caused by the Upper Tribunal ruling as to whether the standard applies to HMOs, opening the possibility of rooms that would otherwise fail the overcrowding standards being suitable to be licensed for sleeping in.

    The Government wishes to remove such uncertainty by clarifying that compliance with the minimum space standard is a mandatory condition when a local authority grants an HMO licence. The measure attracted overwhelmingly strong support from local authorities and was backed by the majority of landlords and property agents.

    The Government does not accept the arguments put forward by those who did oppose this measure that some tenants, including students and others on a low income, are content to occupy smaller rooms as no evidence was put forward by tenants or students themselves to support this point of view.

    Nevertheless, we recognise that there will be parents living in bedsits or letting rooms (or possibly in a room in a shared house) with a baby or young child. We want to strike the right balance of protecting families’ interests and ensuring standards are maintained and help prevent overcrowding. To get a better understanding of the impact of these proposals on families we will seek further views. 

    Conclusions and next steps

    There was strong support from all respondents to extend the mandatory licensing of HMOs.

    On this basis Government is proposing to take forward the following measures:

    • remove the reference to storeys from the prescribed description of large HMOs, so that all HMOs occupied by five or more people from more than one household, are included;

    • include flats above and below business premises; and

    • clarify that the minimum room size 6.5m² for sleeping accommodation does apply to all licensable HMOs.

    This will provide tenants greater certainty over the quality of the accommodation to be rented and the good character of their landlord. Local authorities will have a better understanding of the stock in their area and be better placed to tackle compliance issues and rogue landlords who have been evading detection.

    Finally, legitimate landlords will benefit from a level playing field, where currently their businesses are undercut by rogue landlords or agents failing to maintain their properties to the required standard.

    Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said:

    In order to build a country that truly works for everyone we must ensure that everyone has somewhere safe and secure to live.

    These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area.

    By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules out of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need.

    Full/source document 

    SEE ALSO -    Start of another attack on HMOs? Council Tax

    DON'T MISS -  HMO considerations with Shawbrook Bank

    NEXT UP -       The Real Life Costs of Running an HMO

    NOW WATCH: 

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    another nail in the coffin of HMO

    Bussiness Rates will be next

    and futher down the road I can see every Landlords needing a Licance

    why would it stop on HMO,s

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    Learn Change and Adapt ?????

    Have they outlined a timeframe for implementation of this?

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    Not that I know about But I am sure they will inform Landlords for the fees

    I would imagin the Council will do the admin for this


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    Learn Change and Adapt ?????

    That all makes sense to me:

    - I never really understood why a 90 bed single floor did not require a licence but a few rooms over Three floors did.

    - If you had a HMO over a commercial it did not require licensing? that is at odds to me. That sounds more dangerous than none-commercial underneath.

    - Regarding room size Mary Latham, explained to me that this is just government making a "guidance" into "legislation" so no real change just making it concrete.

    That all seems fine though (im only going from Vanessa quotes here) the real issue is not more regulation but enforcement. Licence or no Licence the council can close end overcrowded and properties or those with Hazards with HHSRS regulations.
    The power of HHSRS is unshakable in its vagueness that allows a council to require almost anything.

    The proposal should have changed funding from fines going to central government to local council ! to help fund and encourage enforcement.

    Enforcement of Current Regulations not More Regulations.

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    If I wanted to own an HMO I would invest in a Hotel at least you would know where you stand from the start

    This is just a slow death of HMO why cant they be truthfull and stop messing about with this

    It must be a nightmare for HMO Landlords

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    Learn Change and Adapt ?????

    Regulations will amend schedule 4 of the Housing Act 2004 by inserting a new compulsory condition in every licence granted in England (mandatory and additional) that local housing authorities are to disregard rooms of less than a prescribed size from being included as a room suitable for sleeping accommodation in a licence

     If such a room is let or occupied for sleeping the licensor would be in breach of the license and commit an offence, liable on conviction to an unlimited fine or civil penalty of up to £30,000.

     The prescribed sizes are:

     6.52sq-m for one person    10.23sq-m for two persons

    Will not apply to temporary visitors, but children will be counted as full adults for this condition. It is proposed that the mandatory condition will apply in HMO licenses issued for applications received after implementation

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    Hi Adam,

    This would be new legislation i.e. new secondary regulations rather than simply guidance on interpretation of the existing rules.

    The government will be removing the three storey requirement for mandatory HMO licensing, so most properties that are occupied by five or more people not all related would need licensing anywhere in England. The proposed application to flats in multiple occupation is more complicated and I'm currently working through the government's proposals in that respect.

    Flats above business premises already need licensing if the property (including business premises) is three or more storeys and the flat occupied by five or more people, not all related. The press release doesn't really make that clear.

    Regards

    Richard

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    Richard Tacagni MCIEH CEnvH

    Managing Director

    London Property Licensing

    Email: Richard@londonpropertylicensing.co.uk

    www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk

    This information is intended as general advice and guidance. It is not legal advice and should not be taken or relied upon as such. No liability can be accepted for any reliance on the information published in this response. You may wish to obtain independent legal advice.

    Sorry Richard, my comment was vague regarding new legislation. I was specificaly talking about the room sizes.
    Moving it from a Guidance (due to a tribunal judgement) to a more concrete Requirement via Legislation

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    Hi Adam,

    I see what you mean. Regarding room sizes, the government will in effect be overturning the Upper Tribunal decisions by introducing new legislation that means a room less than 6.5m2 could not be occupied in a licenable HMO, whereas at present it is down to local interpretation and some smaller rooms are permitted., 

    Whether it is right to remove all such rooms from use by introducing an arbitrary minimum room size when housing is in such short supply, I'm less sure.

    Regards

    Richard

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    Richard Tacagni MCIEH CEnvH

    Managing Director

    London Property Licensing

    Email: Richard@londonpropertylicensing.co.uk

    www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk

    This information is intended as general advice and guidance. It is not legal advice and should not be taken or relied upon as such. No liability can be accepted for any reliance on the information published in this response. You may wish to obtain independent legal advice.

    On the positive side this will remove the need for more Selective licensing and Additional licensing in most areas which is a good thing because investors will know going in where they stand rather than having a kick in the teeth having already invested in an area which subseqently becomes subject to more licensing.

    Each authority will simply extend their mandatory licensing activities to the new criteria which will bring in a lot more revenue but will also increase their work load.

    The battle that is worth fighting is the cost of a licence which can vary in two adjoining authorities ie. Birmingham £1,150 Sandwell £500. Critical mass usally reduces the unit cost and it is not happening.  Also the renewal (or in legal terms the new application for a further licence) also costs far too much ie in Birmingham £800.  This is unjustified where a property has met the original licence conditions and the property has not been changed.  This should be a tick box excersise at a minimal cost of say £50. Another battle worth fighting.

    In my opinion the Home Office has had a lot to do with bringing flats above commercial properites into licensing because I know that they find many illegal immigrants in such properties and also really poor accommodation for those who are legally living here. This, in my opinion is a good thing and I am sure will be welcomed by the Fire Serices who are often called to fires in these properties and struggle to get people out safely.

    The minimum room size is just a confirmation of the CIH guide but making it mandatory will remove several undwersized rooms from the market and to be honest this is also a good thing. A room smaller than 6.5 sq mtrs is far too small for an adult to live in, particularly in an HMO where people spend a lot of time in their bedrooms

    Overall these changes will give councils the income and powers to clean up a lot of sub-standard properties and will take the pressure off the many good HMO landlords

    In a nut shell we now need to talk cost and stop worrying about something which we cannot change


    Mary Latham Landlord

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