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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    Video exclusive: Changes to HMO regulations



    The Government has had HMOs in its sights for a while now, and a number of changes to legislation are in the pipeline that will effect a significant number of existing HMOs.

    In this interview, David Smith, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors who also specialises in HMO law, shares the key things that landlords need to be aware of when new legislation comes in from October 2018:



    If you have any questions for David, please drop them on this thread and he would be happy to answer them.

    Up-dated 23/02/18 - The new HMO regulations have just been published and come into effect in 1st October 2018, as previously reported:

    The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018

    SEE ALSO  -          HMO, Individual Council Tax Banding

    UP NEXT -              Buying my first HMO - advice please!

    DON'T MISS -         New HMO licensing rules

    NOW WATCH: 
          

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    Looks like the non-mandatory HMO route is the way to go.

    Why would any LL wish to buy a property with rooms that don't meet the minimum room sizes.

    Values of any HMO without these size rooms will reduce substantially unless they may be easily converted to the compliant room sizes.

    Will a purpose built 5 roomed property ranged over 2 floors with compliant room sizes for sleeping adult couples or singles which now required to be licensed HMO be required to carry out all the fire protection works etc that currently applying to the current licensible HMO!!!??

    I reckon Mr Smith with his HMO expertise is going to be a very busy  boy as very confused LL work out what they can or need to do with their properties.

    I would suggest that very few LL have any idea of the HMO issues that Mr Smith so cogently expresses.

    There will be many HMO ll that will be caught out.

    They will be left holding dud properties which cannot meet current commercial valuations.

    I reckon lenders will become very nervous lending for any property intending to have more than 4 occupiers.


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    It's very simple, if you have any room under 6.52 sq m you have to move a wall or extend. It's not ambiguous - I don't think David will have any work to do for people in respect of this. There is nothing to dispute.

    Over a portfolio of 36 rooms, I have two bedrooms that are smaller than 6.52 sq m by approximately 0.25 to 0.5 sq m. This can be easily sorted by moving an interior wall in both instances. When the legislation arives we will know what factors effect the floor area calculation (room height etc...)

    Where the cost of enlarging rooms outweighs the benefit of retaining the property I would think a landlord would just sell it or may still find that income from five bedrooms still significantly outweighs the return from a standard buy to let.

    So I feel that what is being proposed is very simple, and it is quite clear on what you have to do to comply.

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    Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor. Experienced in estate management, residential investments, planning and development and rights for utility apparatus. All comments are for casual information purposes only. If you wish to rely on any advice I have given please ensure you obtain independent specialist advice from a third party. No liability is accepted for comments made.


    Paul, I run several 5-bed, 2-storey HMOs, all of which are very straightforward Victorian houses, i.e. there's one first-floor landing with four 12'x12' bedrooms off, one staircase, one front door, and one hall with a bedroom, kitchen and lounge or two off that.

    These will unfortunately have to be licensed in September 2018, so I've been looking at what works need to be done. I've found the following:

    1) Local authorities can be very confused themselves about what constitutes a licensable HMO and what the fire regulations are, so I predict they will tend to take the easiest line (for them) and demand the full range of fire measures.

    Rather than take the risk of having a confused EHO or housing officer blundering round my houses demanding expensive and impractical this and that, I've paid a private professional fire safety officer to inspect the properties in advance and produce a report on what he considers are necessary works; this report should trump anything the LA dreams up.

    The cost was £350 per property. Some landlords may be very lucky and find their local fire brigade will do inspections for free, but that's long gone in my area.

    2) from what my fire officer says, all newly licensable HMOs are going to have to have a wired-in smoke detection system. Battery-powered units don't cut it nowadays.

    That means a wired-in smoke detector in every bedroom, in the hall and landing, and a heat detector in the kitchen. I've had the work done and it does look stupid with smoke detectors within less than six feet of each other between the landing and each upstairs bedroom, but there's no such thing as engineering overkill in the fire safety world. The next tenant who uses a toaster in their bedroom at midnight is going to set off the whole house and find herself deeply unpopular with her housemates . . .

    3) fortunately there was very little requirement for escape signage, like those hideous backlit bulkheads you see in hotels and guest houses. I also didn't have to make any changes to my lovely old Victorian front doors.

    4) there was no need for any fire extinguishers, just a fire blanket in the kitchen.

    Fire officers no longer recommend fire extinguishers, because they believe that inexperienced occupants just spend ages working out how to use them and thereby put their own lives in danger.

    If you do supply fire extinguishers, you have to get them serviced annually and be qualified to train every tenant in how to use them, or send the tenants on a formal training course. If you fail to prove you did all this and someone dies, you're to blame. I've taken out all my fire extinguishers as requested by the fire officer.

    5) there was more debate about the need for fire doors.

    Obviously there needs to be a self-closing fire door to the kitchen, which the tenants will probably block open with a doorstop, now that the traditional fire extinguisher is no longer available. Elsewhere, such are the complications of the system, if your bedroom doors have so much as a hint of being lockable, or if you run room-by-room ASTs, then every bedroom and lounge must have a 30-minute fire door with brushes and intumescent strips, but *not* self-closers.

    The only circumstance in which you might get away with keeping your original Victorian doors is if there is a single whole-house tenancy agreement and no door-locks, but even then, some LAs might go medieval on you and demand that you *prove* all the tenants knew each other before they moved in, and therefore qualify as being a "group", which has a lower standard of fire risk under the regulations. I'm resigned to tearing out all my characterful Victorian interior doors and replacing them with bland, boring modern slabs: such is progress.

    The only saving grace in all this heavy-handed intervention is that we don't have to install sprinklers, like they do in Wales.

    That will probably come next, together with a demand that all rented properties have a C-grade or higher on their EPCs, at which point no Victorian-era house is going to be viable because the walls are solid and can only be insulated at vast expense coupled with the destruction of the majority of the original internal or external features.

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    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Tonya, but YOU are the kind of rogue landlord that mandatory licensing is designed to catch!

    A simple reading of the rules, or indeed asking anyone with an understanding of them, would have disabused you of the misconception that fire safety rules only apply to licensable HMOs.

    If you have a HMO, you have a legal duty to perform a fire risk assessment, and a legal duty to implement appropriate fire risk management measures. If you don't believe, pull out your copy of the LACORS fire safety document and start reading at section A.51 "The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005" (FSO).  Here are a few snippets:

    > "So the FSO does apply to: the common parts of HMOs"

    > "In order to comply with the duties imposed by the FSO, the responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment to identify what fire hazards exist"

    > "In practice, it is very unlikely that a properly conducted fire risk assessment, which takes into account all the matters relevant for the safety of persons in case of fire, will conclude that no fire precautions (including maintenance) are necessary"

    > "Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the FSO ... is a criminal offence"

    Note that there's nothing there that says "... only if the property is licensable." So just to be crystal clear, if you have a HMO, you must conform to the fire safety rules.  It matters not one jot whether it's licensable or not.

    The only difference with a licensable HMO, is that you have to inform the LHA who will come and inspect to make sure you're doing what you should have done anyway.  Just because no one checked over your shoulder, doesn't mean you didn't have make your HMOs safe anyway.

    Well done for proactively getting an independent fire risk assessor in, but what he's telling you about linked smoke detectors and fire doors on protected routes etc, should have been done from day 1. You should consider yourself bloody lucky that you haven't had a fire already and no one has been injured in one of your HMOs, as the courts would quite rightly have thrown the book at you.

    You'd have got a hefty fine, possibly a jail term, and a criminal record that would have excluded you from the "fit and proper person" test for any future license applications. Not to mention that the likelihood is that your insurance is invalid as you've not been following the applicable legislative rules, so you may have been left with a smoking ruin and no insurance money to fix it.

    Sorry to go on Tonya and to single you out, but this is a topic that really gets my goat.  I for one welcome this change in licensing as it will (hopefully) provide a massive shock to the HMO market, either driving out many of the HMO landlords who have shirked their legal, ethical and moral obligations to provide safe housing for their tenants, or make them install appropriate fire safety measures like the rest of us landlords who do confirm to the rules, thereby levelling the playing field.


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    Based on what you state and on the basis that any tenancy with which there are more than two unrelated sharers there will be millions of HMO that have not complied with the fire risk assessments etc you suggest should occur.

    This means many LL will have invalid insurance.

    This means they will be in breach of lender conditions.

    This means lenders could call in loans.

    This means mass repossessions and evictions.

    This means mortgage values being marked down.

    This will cause  reduced property values

    This will cause a run on the banks as the mortgages will be negative equity.

    This will cause lending to halt.

    This will cause a recession.

    Unintended consequences or what! !!??

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    Hi I have a question for David please. I am in the process of buying a 6 bed HMO. It is currently licensed until the end of 2018 and fully occupied

    However the lender's surveyor believes one of the rooms may not be fit for renting under new regulations:

    • the floor space is 7m2
    • however part of this is  under a roof slope so available head room is less than 1.5m for part of the room - this in their view reduces the available space to less than the 6.52m2. Is this true? My estate agent is assuring me not and that guidelines make no reference to headroom/sloping roofs but I would like some certainty as this will reduce the property income significantly from next year and means I would not make the purchase at current valuation

    Very grateful if you could help me understand this either way

    Anthony.

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    The original consultation used the size of 6.51sqm and said that any ceiling height below 1.5m would not count toward that figure. The final response is less than clear and there is not formal guidance yet. I consider it likely that there will be a minimum height of 1.5m. However, until the regulations are produced it is difficult to be certain.

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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.

    2 Questions from an owner/occupier point of view

    Property with 3 bedrooms >6.52 and 1 bedroom <6.52. If only 2 lodgers it will not be an HMO. If 3 lodgers it will be an HMO and require additional licencing. The small bedroom can not be let. Can the landlord use the small bedroom personally and let the 3 large bedrooms?

    Property converted to 3 flats, each with 2 bedrooms, 1 >6.52 and 1 <6.52. If the landlord is an owner occupier of 1 flat the property is exempt from additional licencing as a S257 HMO. If the landlord moves out and additional licencing is required are the flats now only 1 bed flats?

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    If you are an owner/occupier with 3 lodgers then it will be an HMO but may not need licensing. Minimum room sizes only apply to licensable dwellings.

    If you convert to flats there will be a planning implication as it will be a change of use. They may impose room size requirements.

    Being an owner/occupier is largely irrelevant to s257 HMO's and is not an exemption.

    Not many local authorities have licensing scheme for s257 HMOs and the room size obligations will not apply to them. If each flat is self contained and the conversion is done recently the properties will not be s254 HMOs (as they do not share basic amenities) and also will not be s257 HMOs because the conversion will accord with the Building Regulations 1991 (otherwise it will be an unlawful conversion!)

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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.

    As I suggested even from these number of posts the HMO regs etc will keep Mr. Smith very busy.

    It is far from clear how all things will be.

    I don't believe EA have woken up to how these new regulations will start to affect property values.

    If I was buying again as a LL I would have to factor in room sizes with the property valuation

    A property alleged to have 3 bedrooms may be the case for a homeowner but not a LL.

    When considered in the round with councils and the Govt having differing perspectives I believe there will be much confusion.

    All I know is that at a very basic level I would not buy any property with rooms less than the 6.52m2.

    Unless of course by building works that could be factored into any purchase price.

    So sort of goof news for prospective homeowners there will be many 3 bed properties that LL won't want.

    So a buying opportunity for aspirant homeowners!!

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