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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    Specification of 4 bed non-licensable HMO?

    I have an HMO with 5 people. I recently paid for someone from the local authority to assess the property and they came up with a list of things that need to be introduced including full, wired in connected smoke detectors, 6 sockets in each room, fire doors, a wall built in the open plan kitchen between the kitchen and hallway, the fuse board to be moved and rehoused, extractor fans, loft boarded in order to comply with the licence.

    I had originally decided to sell the house because of the cost of potential adaptations and the LA were happy to come and assess before it goes on the market to let me know what needs to happen to get the licence.

    I worked the figures and thought that if I went down to 4 people, I didn’t need a licence and therefore wouldn’t have to introduce the raft of measures they require for the licence as long as I fulfilled by management obligations ie smoke alarms, notices, EPC, electrical and gas certificates etc.

    However the council have said that that it doesn’t matter how many people live there, the exaxtlybtge same things have to be introduced. I hadn’t thought this was the case with 1-4 people as long as I adhered to the basic rules.

    Am I completely wrong? So it’s all or nothing whether a property needs a licence or not?

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    Hi Sharronpeck

    I believe exactly as you - that there is no legislation which requires properties with 4 or less unrelated tenants to be brought up to HMO standard. This issue is what I am currently querying with the local council who are saying otherwise. I've just challenged it, so will report back when I hear more from them.



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    The 4 bed might not need licence in most of the councils but still you will have to adhere to most of HMO regulations like fire door , thumbturn locks , wired alarms etc .

    Basically if you read a LARCOS guide , and all council fire safety officer use that only as guideline it says if there are multiple tenancy then you will strictly have to adhere to FSO ( fire safety Oder) as the house with unrelated people have higher risk , but if suppose you have group of 4 friend in single tenancy you can get away with it as it’s considered less risky .

    imo that if you adhere to FSO it’s gives you flexibility of renting room by room else you will have to rent whole 4 bed room house /

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     Even if your property is smaller and rented to fewer people, ( than the statutory HMO )   you may still need a licence depending on the area. Check with your council. Each one is using its own rules on this unfortunately. so there is no general rule that applies across the board. 

    Therefore they can impose what regulations they want. IF anything happens and your tenants are injured ie by fire, and you do not have these in place trying explaining in court its not an HMO.  so the rules don't apply. Smoke detectors,  ,fuse box position are all basics and are now covered by building regulations.

    Fire doors do make good sense pp when renting out. Welcome to the real world of renting and the responsibilities you have as a landlord.

    Thats why the regulations came in to ensure rental properties are safe. We all know that most owner occupied properties do not have these in place buts that how it is. - One thing the switched on selling agents are now ensuring such things are in place, likewise insurance companies beginning to catch on.

    Finally if your do not have the basics in place you could have problems with your insurance if trying to claim at a later date.

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    Hi Douglas. So there is NO difference between 5 + tenants or less, they have exactly the same H&S requirements etc etc? My council does not have any other licencingbin place apart from the norm. I didn’t realise that with only 3 tenants I’d need emergency lighting, rooms sizes, full fire alarm system etc etc

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    The standards for a non-licensable HMO are not exactly the same as it does not need licensing.

    However, all HMOs, licensable or not, are bound by the HMO Management Regulations. These are the same regardless of licensing.

    This includes a requirement that the property is fire safe and most of the things that you are referring to are fire safety related. Therefore the LHA is able to adopt the same approach on fire safety either way and is likely to do so.

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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.

    What’s confusing me is the LHA sent me the Lacors guide along with their requirements and many things conflict eg in Lacors it says that a 2 storey shared house does not need emergency lighting and many other things so that’s why I’m confused. There are 3 things in the mix - the LHA requirements, the Management Regulations and the Lacors guide which the LHA say I need to comply with.

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    Is it a shared house (collective group moved in same day on one AST) or bedsit type (all on an individual AST)? That would dictate things like fire precaution measures both active and passive.

    With regards to the HMO management regulations, in part, some may and/or wouldn't be applicable dependent on persons and household for some regulations, although menial some councils do not always read them correctly.

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    I think this case demonstrates the difficulty in paying an enforcing authority to offer advice on compliance. It is not always made clear what are legal requirements and what may be recommendations and suggested best practice. It also very much depends on the knowledge, skills and experience of the inspecting officer.

    There are differences in how legislation is applied to licensable and non-licensable HMOs.

    For example, all licensable HMOs must be provided with adequate fire precautions and this is often enforced by way of licence conditions.

    For non-licensable HMOs, the fire safety risk will be assessed under the HHSRS. If there is a serious category 1 hazard, the council has a duty to act, but if it is a less serious category 2 hazard, any intervention by the council becomes optional. If fire precautions need to be improved, the council can serve an Improvement Notice requiring works to be completed within a set period, with a right of appeal if you think the requirements are unreasonable.

    In all HMOs, the fire precautions must also be properly maintained under the HMO Management Regulations.

    The LACORS fire safety guidance (which I helped produce) remains an important reference point when determining what is expected in different sizes and types of HMOs. But, it is risk based and does not set prescriptive standards. As an example, many low occupancy standard layout two storey shared houses will not require emergency lighting, although each case will be assessed on its merits.

    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.