AM I A HMO? (House in Multiple Occupation)
If you have 3 and/or 4 people (that are NOT related to each other) and they share the same amenities (i.e. Kitchen) then you ARE A HMO.
So for example, if you own or a manage a normal terraced house let out to 3 or 4 unrelated students/professionals who share a kitchen it is a HMO, irrespective of the number of floors in the building and irrespective if they are on a single or joint tenancy agreement.
THE LEGAL DEFINITION
Under the Housing Act 2004, if you let a property which is one of the following types, it is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO):
An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
All HMO’s in Coventry will require a HMO licence. This means all 3 and 4 bedrooms will need to apply for a HMO licence, to continue to operate lawfully.
Coventry City Council have announced “Additional Licensing” scheme. This means ALL 3 and 4 bedroom type HMO’s will require a HMO licence. HMO licensing used to only apply to 5 or more unrelated occupants (that share a facility). It is an offence if you do not comply with these regulations.
This is a City wide directive, and the main aim is to ensure safety standards are conformed to and appropriate management, maintenance and fire precautions are met, and thus a HMO licence fee is paid.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR LANDLORDS & MANAGING AGENTS?
As a HMO of this type you must adhere to HMO safety standards and fire safety management requirements. Management standards for HMO’s include;
Adhere to the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006/2007. – Enforced by Coventry City Council
Adhere to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – Enforced by West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service. Coventry City Council now requires all licensable HMO’s in Coventry to have a Fire Risk Assessment. This needs to be performed by a competent person, and “competency” may have to be proven to an Enforcement Officer, or in Court.
Adhere to HHSRS- Housing Health & Safety Rating System – Enforced by Coventry City Council.
To identify Hazard-based evaluation within your HMO. Each hazard has a weighting which will help determine whether the property is rated as having category 1 (serious) or category 2 (other).
A HMO is a House in Multiple Occupation, a building, or part of the building, occupied by three or more people, in two or more households and are sharing at least one basic amenity – such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. For example, if you have three unrelated people (students/professionals) living in a property that share a kitchen, then you are a HMO.
As a licensable HMO you must adhere to HMO safety standards and fire safety management requirements. The THREE areas that are enforceable under Management standards for HMO’s are;
- Adhere to the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006/2007
The Regulations impose duties on a person managing a HMO in respect of:
- Providing information to occupiers
- Taking safety measures, including fire safety measures
- Maintaining the water supply and drainage
- Supplying and maintaining gas and electricity including having it regularly inspected
- Maintaining common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
- Maintaining living accommodation; and
- Providing waste disposal facilities
In addition all licensable HMO’s will have to adhere to local Coventry City Councils HMO regulations, as well as the HHSRS (Housing Health & Safety Rating). Failure to ensure proper and adequate management of a HMO is an offence liable to prosecution
- Adhere to Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
Coventry City Council require all licensable HMO’s in Coventry to have a Fire Risk Assessment and state ;
“a competent person should be sought as necessary to achieve this”.
You must carry out a Fire Risk Assessment and take action to minimise the risk of fire. This needs to be performed professionally. It’s worth noting that ‘competency’ to carry out a fire risk assessment may have to proven to an enforcement officer. The person carrying out an assessment must be competent to do so. In terms of Law a competent person is to be regarded as someone with sufficient training, experience and knowledge of fire safety. This is enforced by the Fire and Rescue Authority. If you cannot prove competency to carry out a Fire Risk assessment then you must contact a professional to conduct a health and Fire safety inspection of the property, perform any work that is suggested, and keep a record of all of this.
- Adhere to HHSRS- Housing Health & Safety Rating System. -Enforced by Coventry City Council.
This is a risk-based evaluation tool to help local authorities identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings. The HHSRS assesses 29 categories of housing hazard. Each hazard has a weighting which will help determine whether the property is rated as having category 1 (serious) or category 2 (other).
Coventry City Council inspect HMO’s under this rating scheme, and will consider action to be taken if housing conditions score highly against this assessment. During an assessment of your HMO, a local authority officer will make judgements by reference to those who, mostly based on age, would be most vulnerable to the hazard, even if people in these age groups may not actually be living in the property at the time. Meaning that even a vacant dwelling can be assessed and that if the dwelling is rated as safe for those considered to be most vulnerable it will be safe for anyone.
Article 4 is a change to planning regulations which would mean that any property that had established use as a single dwelling house (Planning Use Class C3) and a owner wants to change its use to a small HMO (Planning Use Class C4) planning consent would be needed.
With a local authority adopting an Article 4 direction it would remove the previous permitted development rights (PD Rights) for changes to be made. Therefore any HMO, regardless of the number of tenants, automatically would require planning permission.
It does not mean that planning permission would not be granted. However, it would need to meet a “stress” test via the council to ensure that the merits of each HMO are considered, such as, location, cumulative and proliferation impact on the area, amongst other requirements.
Councils can adopt Article 4 direction in certain areas, streets or even City Wide. Coventry City Council, presently have not adopted an Article 4 direction in the City, as a whole. This does not mean they will not introduce it in the future. We strongly recommend the need to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development (CLD). We specialise in obtaining CLD’s for HMOs, please do not hesitate to contact us for support in this area.
Furthermore, this does not mean every street and location of a house falls under permitted development rights (PD). There are numerous areas, streets and house numbers that do not automatically qualify for Permitted Development Rights, in Coventry. This means you would need to apply for planning permission if you were thinking of converting a house into a HMO.
We are very well versed on all current legislation that applies to HMO’s, in and around Coventry. Our team consists of specialist planning consultants, private building inspectors & specialised HMO architects- BA Arch (Hons), MCIAT, SMTS, all working to produce HMO compliant properties. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need private guidance in this area.
Read more about Article 4 here : https://safehmo.co.uk/article4/
My builder’s have built an extension –is that OK for a HMO?
There are 3 layers of local authorities that sit on top of your HMO. (In priority order):
- The Planning Department
- Building Regulation Department
- HMO Enforcement Department
These are 3 totally independent departments, and all have different areas of your HMO they look after. For example, if you have created en-suites in your HMO, a building regulation completion certificate will be required. This inspection for building regulations cannot be carried out by the HMO Enforcement Team, nor the planning department, as it’s out of their jurisdiction. Likewise minimum room size requirements are imposed by HMO Enforcement teams, and have nothing to do with the planning department. Ironically, very often the planning officer will have little or no knowledge about minimum rooms sizes, because its not their department that deals with that side of the HMO.
If you have created en-suites, removed chimney breasts, produced a “rectangle” extension at the rear of your property, etc, you may want to have a chat with us, to ensure you have not contravened any building regs, or planning issues. This is important as retrospective planning, and building reg certificates are difficult to obtain. These issues may not seem important now, but when you go to sell your property or re-finance your HMO you will have issues at the exchange or completion stage, as these issues will be picked up via the surveyor and your lawyer will need to satisfy these conditions, in order for the deal to move forward. As well as this local authorities are also coming hard down onto property owners that have contravened planning laws. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need private guidance in this area.
Very often property owners are adopting to have en-suites within their bedrooms. This could be for a better marketable HMO product or simply better convenience for the tenant. Builders (or even worse “HMO Specialist Builders”) very often get this horribly wrong, causing financial consequences for landlords that entrusted them to carry out the works. The main issues to be aware off are:
- Ensure you still meet minimum room sizes– after you created an en-suite, inevitably you would have had to “eat-into” the bedroom floor size. From a HMO prospective you could have eaten into your minimum bedroom sizes, as this is classed as “un-usable” floor space. This would mean the reminder of the floor space would need to satisfy the councils minimum rooms size requirements. Not to mention other factors deemed as un-usable floor space would have to be factored into this calculation.
- Building Regulation Certificate required– When en-suites are created you will at some point be feeding into main drains, waste etc will flow into this system. At this point you will be required to have a completion building regulation certificate to declare that these works have been carried out to current legalisation. Failure to produce a building regs certificate can impact many things, such as:
- The sale of your HMO does not proceed because you could not satisfy legal conditions of your HMO
- The re-financing lender of your HMO cannot allow you to release funds because of not having the completion certificate, thus not meeting their criteria.
- During an inspection of your HMO the local authorities ask you for the completion certificate, and thus if you are unable to produce it, then it will cause major issues for continuing the use of that en-suite.
In all the above scenarios retrospective building completion certificates are very hard to obtain, as all the building works have been completed. Your builder may be nowhere to be seen at this point, and in most cases all the monies have been paid to him, in any case. It is vital therefore, that you get the opinions and expertise before you start your HMO project. Our HMO construction team is trained to work to latest legislation requirements in your HMO, whether that’s planning, building regulation issues or HMO requirements. We ensure you have a fully legitimate complaint HMO as an output, alleviating the cost and stress that may be caused by incompetent builders. Please see https://safehmo.co.uk/build/
If your HMO is in Coventry then YES you will require a HMO licence and must adhere to safety standards, fire safety requirements and management requirements as licensable HMO’s.
You need to protect your tenants from fire and safety issues, the additional safety requirements include the following;
- The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006
- The National Fire Safety Guidance LACORS fire safety standards (2MB, PDF) determines the required fire fighting and detection equipment
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires all ‘responsible’ persons, i.e. landlords and managers, to undertake a fire risk assessment of HMO’s.
- To adhere to local Coventry City Councils HMO regulations.
No, under Article 9, the responsible person will be required to assess the risk in respect of both the place and its activities. Under Article 10, they must implement such general fire safety measures as are reasonable and necessary to reduce risks that are found, and, by virtue of Articles 11 to 22, must then protect all persons using the premises and the immediate vicinity from fire risks that remain.
The person carrying out an assessment must be competent to do so. A competent person is to be regarded as a person with sufficient training, experience and knowledge of fire safety to enable them to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment properly.
Assessments that relate to endangering lives cannot be made by persons that do not have professional qualifications or those that do not deal with these rules on a daily basis. There will be almost no underpinning certainty or accountability by such persons if there is a fatal injury or death that results from advice given by a ‘none’ competent person (e.g advice from a builder/architect/designer).
The council now has new enforcement powers – fixed penalty notices.
Fixed Penalty Notices under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 came into force in April 2017. They are an alternative to prosecution for various private sector housing offences. The Council can also adopt a Civil Penalties Policy which incorporates a schedule of penalties for various offences.
The maximum penalty that can be levied is £30,000.
The process will involve the service of a ‘notice of intent’ to impose a financial penalty. A person served with a notice may make representations within 28 days. A decision will then be made in regard to whether to impose a penalty and the amount. If it decides to impose a penalty, the Council must issue a final notice requiring payment within 28 days. There is a right of appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.
If you are found to be operating an illegal HMO, you could be:
- Fined, prosecuted and even imprisoned
- You will not be a ‘fit and proper’ person and therefore unable to manage your HMO property
- You may not be able to serve a valid Section 21 or Section 8 eviction notices
- Your insurance can become null and void
- Under the ‘relevant persons’ section, your mortgage lenders may be contacted and your mortgage could be revoked
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