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“Over concentration of HMOs within the immediate locality” sees plans for former office space refused

Plans to convert “dilapidated” and “eyesore” office space in Wrexham into a HMO have been refused.

The application for Unit C on Maesgwyn Road had been submitted to Wrexham Council in April 2018.

Previously the offices were home to the Wrexham tram depot before being used as a bus depot. In recent years it has been used as a garage and repair shop. However they have since been vacant for a number of years and have been subject to vandalism

Under the plans put forward to Wrexham Council it had been proposed the office space was converted into a six bedroomed House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

In the initial application documents, the applicants stated: “We feel this planning application should be looked favourably upon as the intention to provide additional accommodation within the town centre ideally suited to young professional’s seeking work or employment in the area.

“The building is prominent to existing dwellings and is currently in a dilapidated state where vandals have targeted windows and walls within the building.

“At present the building is an eyesore to local residents, by allowing this conversion to take place the building will be revamped and be a secure building ensuring vandalism won’t occur.

“By allowing us to convert the existing offices to provide a HMO we are retaining the existing characteristics of the building, reducing its impact on the current parking arrangements and ensuring parking issues aren’t magnified should the unit be refurbished as an office.”

However a delegated decision made by the council’s head of environment and planning has seen the application refused due to an “increase in the over concentration of HMOs” in the area.

A decision notice published by the head of environment and planning states: “The proposed development would increase the over concentration of HMOs within the immediate locality to the detriment of the social fabric of the area and the amenity of the existing residents.

“Adequate onsite private open space is not provided which would be to the detriment of the future occupiers of the development and to allow the development would be contrary to Policy H4 c) and d) of the adopted Wrexham Unitary Development Plan and Local Planning Guidance Note No. 5 “Houses in Multiple Occupation”.

Source: Wrexham

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Government to review selective licensing as it unveils new guidance for HMO properties

The Government has announced a review into selective licensing to assess how well it is working.

The review will seek evidence from local authorities and bodies representing landlords, tenants and housing professionals, with findings reported next year.

A Government statement said: “In areas where selective licensing applies, landlords must apply for a licence if they want to rent out a property. This means the council can check whether they are a ‘fit or proper person’ to be a landlord, as well as making other stipulations concerning management of the property and appropriate safety measures.

“The review will see independent commissioners gather evidence from local authorities and bodies representing landlords, tenants and housing professionals.

“The review’s findings will be reported in spring 2019. There will be an update on progress in autumn this year.”

It comes as the Government set out guidance for the extension of mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation and the introduction of minimum room size requirements.

Local authorities have been told to start making landlords aware of the regulations – being introduced on October 1 – and existing licence holders will need to be given extra time to make their properties compliant when they come to renew their licence after deadline.

Currently, HMO landlords require a licence if letting properties that are three or more storeys and occupied by five or more people from at least two separate households.

From October 1, the licensing rules will be extended to HMO properties of all sizes, including two-storey houses and bungalows.

Government guidance published yesterday said: “Local housing authorities have a duty to effectively implement mandatory licensing in their district.

“This means that they must promote licensing in their area and accept and process applications before October 1st 2018.

“We expect local housing authorities to have the framework in place to process and issue licences in advance of this date and to encourage early applications from landlords who are due to become subject to mandatory licensing. Local housing authorities must also ensure that all applications for licences are determined within a reasonable time.”

The guidance also details rules on minimum bedroom size requirements for HMOs, with a fine of up to £30,000 for those who fail to comply.

The minimum sleeping room sizes are:

· 6.51 m2 for one person over ten years of age

· 10.22m2 for two persons over ten years of age

· 4.64 m2 for one child under the age of ten years.

Any area of the room in which the ceiling height is less than 1.5m cannot be counted towards the minimum room size, the Government said.

Local housing authorities are also required to impose conditions specifying the maximum number of people aged over and under ten who may occupy specified rooms provided in HMOs for sleeping accommodation.

Existing licence holders will have to comply with the new minimum room size requirements from when an existing licence is renewed after October 2018.

If a landlord is not compliant at the time of renewal a local authority must give them up to 18 months to make changes.

Commenting on the announcements, David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “Licencing doesn’t work, and it never has done. The Government’s aims are laudable; we’re all striving for the same end goal of improving the private rental sector for consumers, but these policies are impractical.

“Licensing means councils spend all their time administering schemes, rather than enforcing against rogue, criminal landlords – a fact which has been proven time and time again over the last decade. Implementing standards for minimum bedroom sizes means small, cheap bedrooms will be taken off the market at a time when there’s an acute housing shortage.

“This will increase costs for other tenants living in the property, and means those who need or want these small, cheap bedrooms will be left without anywhere to live.

“The announcement, coupled with the gradual removal of mortgage interest relief, new energy standards for landlords, and the ever-increasing fees for these schemes, means landlords are being hit from every side.

“At a time when the Government is concerned with rising rent costs, all its policies are just increasing costs for landlords, fostering a private rented sector where financial burdens due to ever-changing legislations will keep rising.”

Source: Property Industry Eye

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HMO licensing guidance for local authorities – and landlords

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has today issued the document “Houses in multiple occupation and residential property licensing reform: guidance for local housing authorities.”
The guidance has been produced for local housing authorities, but is also intended to be of use for landlords.

Click Here to read the full document.

From 1 October 2018 any landlord who lets a property to five or more people from two or more separate households must be licensed by their local housing authority

This document has been prepared as a guide for local housing authorities to help them understand how to implement the reforms to houses in multiple occupation (HMO)licensing.

Under the Housing Act 2004, larger that are 3 or more storeys and occupied by 5 or more persons forming at least 2 separate households are required to be licensed.

With effect from 1 October 2018 mandatory licensing of will be extended so that smaller properties used as in England which house 5 people or more in 2 or more separate households will in many cases require a licence.

New mandatory conditions to be included in licences have also been introduced, prescribing national minimum sizes for rooms used as sleeping accommodation and requiring landlords to adhere to council refuse schemes.

Housing minister, Heather Wheeler MP, said: “Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live.

“Today’s new guidance for landlords will further protect private renters against bad and overcrowded conditions and poor management practice.”

Source: Property118

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City Council seeks views on proposed new landlord licensing scheme

Consultation on a new licensing scheme for landlords renting out shared houses is running until 20 July 2018 and the City Council is urging residents, tenants, landlords and letting agents to have their say on the proposals.

An Additional Licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) was introduced in parts of Nottingham in 2014 to help ensure safe and decent standards in these homes and contribute to raising the standards of private rented homes in the city overall.

The current five-year scheme will soon end, so the council is consulting on proposals for a new scheme, which would run for a further five years from January 2019.

Additional Licensing is a scheme that applies to privately rented Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) or shared houses. All kinds of people live in HMOs, but they are mostly associated with students and younger people.

The scheme requires a licence to be held for smaller HMO properties in certain areas of the city where between three and five people who aren’t related live together and share facilities like bathrooms and kitchens. Larger HMO properties shared by five or more people will be covered by a different scheme – Mandatory licensing, which is a national scheme, covering the whole city. Landlords are required to apply for a licence, which can last up to five years, for each HMO property they rent out in the area covered by the scheme.

The new Additional Licensing scheme is proposed to cover all or parts of the following wards: Arboretum, Berridge, Bridge, Dales, Dunkirk and Lenton, Mapperley, Radford and Park, Sherwood, St Ann’s and Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey.

The current licensing scheme has had a positive impact on problems associated with HMOs since its introduction in 2014, such as gas, electric and fire safety, overcrowding and insufficient facilities, poor internal and external property conditions as well as issues of noise nuisance and waste management.

Over half of the HMOs that applied to the scheme since 2014 did not meet the required standards at first inspection. However, the council has worked with landlords to improve the conditions and management of their properties with almost 3,500 certificates being issued for compliance with the required standards to date. This, along with the scheme still receiving 25 applications a month in its fifth year, shows that the scheme is effective but there is still work to be done to fully engage landlords and maintain improvements.

Councillor Jane Urquhart, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing said: “This scheme, along with others, is a major part of our plans to improve all types of private rented housing in the city.

“Not only does the scheme help to improve poorer standards of accommodation, it means tenants know what is expected of their landlord in terms of the management of their home. It also helps us to tackle rogue and bad landlords by providing a clear set of guidelines which all landlords need to meet,and helps prevent bad landlords cutting corners or ‘undercutting’ good ones, creating a level playing field for all.

“We are encouraging landlords, managing agents, residents and tenants to have their say on these proposals to help us shape the new scheme.”

A consultation on the new scheme began on 1 May 2018 and is running until 20 July 2018. To find out more information and have your say on the current proposals visit: http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/additionalhmo.

Source: West Bridgford Wire

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Firms on HMO register named after Freedom of Information challenge

FIRMS and organisations responsible for hundreds of multiple-occupancy homes across Northern Ireland have been named for the first time after a year-long Freedom of Information challenge.

For more than a decade the Housing Executive (NIHE) has maintained a list of the properties in the north registered as Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

The published HMO register lists information including the addresses of the properties, but does not show who is in charge of them.

However, NIHE has now disclosed the more than 200 public organisations in charge of HMOs – naming them in respect of each property.

It reveals firms and organisations control almost a quarter of all HMOs in Northern Ireland.

HMOs are generally properties let to three or more people from two or more different families.

Of the 5,790 HMOs registered in the north, companies and organisations are responsible for 1,341 which represents almost 11,000 permitted occupants.

Choice Housing has the most HMOs with 202 properties holding 1,402 people, followed by JHT UUJ Ltd with 118 properties covering 590 occupants, and Queen’s University Belfast with 111 properties and 2,100 occupants.

The details were disclosed to The Irish News following a complaint in June last year to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

NIHE had refused to disclose details in relation to all properties on the HMO register.

However, following discussions with the ICO, the housing body agreed to release information on HMOs run by firms and organisations and withhold details of HMOs run by individuals.

Nicola McCrudden, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), welcomed the publication of the list.

“HMOs are generally a more affordable housing option for a variety of groups including students and migrant workers. They also tend to house some of the most vulnerable in society with multiple needs beyond housing,” she said.

“Due to the shared nature of this housing, HMOs are considered to be higher risk and regulation is necessary to ensure residents’ homes are safe.”

Ms McCrudden said they “welcome this transparency” for firms, but said extending it to individual landlords remains divisive.

She said social housing landlords are regulated and their names are publicly available, and “given that the private rented sector is now larger there is a clear argument that transparency should be extended”.

But she added: “Making individual landlords’ contact details publicly available is a contentious issue.

“We recognise the safety concerns expressed by some landlords, particularly those with larger portfolios.

“However, this must be balanced against the needs of tenants who may not have their landlords’ contact details.

“The HMO Act 2016 is yet to be implemented due to no Executive in place, but is intended as an update on the management and regulation of HMOs including mandatory licensing – whether or not ownership details will appear public register remains unclear.”

———–

:: The 15 firms and organisations in charge of the most HMOs in Northern Ireland

Company – Number of properties – Number of permitted occupants

1. Choice Housing Ireland Ltd – 202 – 1,402

2. JHT UUJ Ltd – 118 – 590

3. Queen’s University Belfast – 111 – 2,100

4. University Partnership Programme – 65 – 412

5. University of Ulster – 60 – 402

6. SOBE Developments Ltd – 52 – 231

7. Triangle Housing Association Ltd – 43 – 214

8. Lanyon Jersey Propco Ltd – 42 – 322

9. Silverline Developments Ltd – 40 – 164

10. Croob Properties Ltd – 30 – 282

11. Apex Housing Association Ltd – 29 – 517

12. Radius Housing Ltd – 26 – 376

13. Nexus Property Services, Rentals and Management – 18 – 93

14. Craigowen Housing Association Ltd – 17 – 177

15. Oakdene Properties Limited – 17 – 90

Source: Irish News

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County Durham landlords encouraged to check licences

Landlords with properties in County Durham are being encouraged to check whether they need a licence ahead of upcoming changes to legislation.

Rules around Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are set to extend to more properties from 1 October 2018 – and the changes may be particularly relevant for landlords of student houses.

From that date, a HMO licence will be required if a property is occupied by five people or more in two separate households, regardless of the number of storeys in the building. Previously, this only applied if the property was three storeys or more.

A single household means either an individual (including a student) or a family unit.

The rules apply to any HMO which is a building or a converted flat where householders share basic amenities like a toilet or cooking facilities, and purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as a HMO.

Landlords whose property now requires a licence must apply before Monday 1 October and are being warned there is no grace period after this date.

However, those landlords who already have a current license under a local authority mandatory or additional licensing scheme, as well as landlords who have a selective licence, will not need to apply for a new license until their current license expires even if that is after 1 October 2018.

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection, said:

“This new legislation will bring many more properties under the HMO licensing regime and we would remind all landlords in the county to check whether they now need to be registered. 

“We take our duty to regulate HMOs very seriously as we know licensing leads to improved property conditions for residents living in this type of accommodation”

Source: Sun FM

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Leicestershire Landlord Prosecuted For Faulty Investment Property

A Leicestershire landlord was prosecuted after he converted a home into three flats without planning permission and without a fire escape.

Landlord Satwinder Singh Phull converted a Glenfield property into three flats ‘without planning permission or building regulations approval.’The home was ‘considered to be’ a house in multiple occupation (HMO). It was inspected by Blabby District Council’s environmental health team in October last year, with a follow up visit some days later from a prevision office from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue service (LFRS).

Three live exposed electrical conductors were revealed in one flat, with two of these at a reachable height. Mr Phull was also unable to state which electricity supply fed lights in communal areas as well as which fed the boiler. There were also ‘insufficient’ waste disposal facilities and no ‘adequate fire escape’ for any of the flats should a fire occur. This led to fire officers declaring that that the property ‘posed an imminent risk of serious harm to any occupants due to the inadequate fire escape’.

Two emergency prohibition orders were subsequently issued and two of the flats were ‘immediately prevented from being used as residential accommodation’.

At Leicester Magistrates’ Court, Mr Phull’s barrister defended him, claiming that his client was ‘not a professional landlord’.

Mr Phull had also since carried out work on the property in order to ensure that the prohibition notices were removed. However, he was fined £4,250 after being convicted of four offences under the Housing Act. Mr Phull was also told to pay council costs of £867 as well as a victim surcharge of £125. The total fines amounted to £5,242 to be paid in £500 instalments.

Portfolio holder for leisure and regulatory services at Blaby District Council, Iain Hewson, stated: ‘This ruling once again highlights our message to landlords that we will not tolerate poor living conditions in the district. As the owner of a hotel Mr Phull should be fully aware of fire safety, particularly in the wake of terrible tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower incident. We urge anyone living in rented accommodation that thinks may not comply with the law to contact us so we can investigate.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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All change for HMOs

As new rules come into force for landlords letting out Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), the focus is on the move to professionalism, says Peter Foulds MRICS, chief valuer and head of risk at Allied Surveyors and Valuers.

There is no doubt that landlords, particularly the amateur and accidental landlords are feeling the pinch. Many have exited the market and new entrants are fewer as the stamp duty hike for investors is proving an effective barrier to entry.

HMRC’s phasing out of mortgage interest relief has meant that many landlords who have not explored limited company opportunities are, in reality, sleep walking into a negative return position.

The capital value to rent ratio, especially in the South had led to many investors seeking more adventurous opportunities. In the last few years, we have seen a flight to the North as investors chase yields. This has played a part in underpinning capital values but this model is heavily reliant on the diligence of local managing agents. Different areas have different challenges: managing a portfolio 100 miles away is very different to managing one in your home town.

Migration to HMOs

We have also seen investor migration to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) investment opportunities. However, the HMO market can catch the unwary and further legislative changes this year will challenge the robustness of the investment class even further.

When interest rates rise, despite the ‘like of like’ provisions for existing mortgages, the PRA changes will result in some portfolio landlords struggling to remortgage away from their existing lender to take advantage of more favourable rates elsewhere.

Meanwhile, however well presented the HMO, the mantra ‘location/location/location’ is particularly relevant.
The most successful HMO operators are actively involved in their portfolios and are aware as soon as an issue presents itself, such as a non-paying tenant or a repair issue. More importantly they will also be aware of issues such as a new build student block coming on line, which will impact on the student supply chain.

Unaware landlords

Article 4 areas, which restrict the change of use from C3 to C4 (small HMO), continue to grow across the country. The number of landlords who are unaware of the requirements until they want to refinance alarms me. They then face the question of whether the property has a certificate of lawful use or relevant planning consent.

Similarly, the complexities of licensing – Mandatory, Additional and Selective – come as a very nasty surprise to many investors. Currently, Mandatory licensing applies to properties of three storeys and over with five or more occupants; Additional licencing is required for any HMO in an area designated by the local authority; and Selective licencing applies to any buy-to-let property (not just HMOs).

So, for example, from August 2018, most of Nottingham will be subject to a Selective licensing scheme and it will apply to the whole of the private rented sector. This will require landlords to supply full certification and to pay £780 per property to obtain a five-year licence. Compliance will be checked by the random selection of properties for inspection. So landlords face £780 for the licence plus the potential cost of obtaining insurance to cover for the provision of alternative accommodation for the tenant.

The October changes to Mandatory licensing will remove the three-storey rule, thus any property with five or more unrelated occupiers will require a licence. Thus, owners of previously unlicensed houses will have to pay a licence fee and potentially costs to upgrade the accommodation in order to achieve a licence.

Minimum room sizes

Alongside that change is the imposition of minimum room sizes meaning it will be illegal to let a room that is less than 6.51 m2 for single occupancy. This increases to 10.22 m2 for double occupancy.

Even this, however, could be trumped by individual local authorities who often require significantly larger rooms than that specified in the new minimum room sizes. This will result in some rooms in HMOs having to be taken out of use, with the consequential loss in rental income and capital value.

Furthermore, depending on the overall size of the bedroom accommodation, local authorities will also require a separate communal ‘living room’ to be provided.

MEES

The final consideration is that of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), which are now in force, and give real meaning to Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). Some landlords assert they are exempt because their lettings are on a room by room basis but this is certainly open to challenge.

Depending on circumstances, there should be an EPC for the building if a landlord requires to gain possession at the end of the term of the assured shorthold tenancy (AST). Moreover, if the EPC rating is an F or G then the tenant will be able to claim the landlord’s notice is invalid, remain at the property and demand upgrading to at least an E rating.

More than ever, let property has to be considered an opportunity for a professional business approach and not merely an investment. And the HMO asset class is certainly not one for the faint hearted – be that investors or lenders!

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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Havering Council Clamps Down On Rogue Buy To Let Behaviour

Havering Council has distributed £55,000 in penalty charges to rogue buy to let investors in the borough over the last two months.

Havering Council has initiated a clamp down on rogue landlords operating inadequate houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Council officers and enforcement teams have been fulfilling this.

Since March, £55,000 has been issued in fines from eight financial penalty notices served to landlords. These came through the borough’s Landlord Licencing Scheme, which started in 12 wards across the borough earlier this year. The scheme requires private landlords of HMOs to apply for a licence. The programme was introduced to improve the poor management of private rented homes and hopes to curb anti-social behavior problems in the area.

One landlord was served two fixed penalty notices by Havering Council which totaled £20,000. The notices were issued as the landlord had been operating an unlicensed HMO in serious disrepair in Rainham. The property had no heating, exposed electrical wiring, and a dangerous outdoor staircase, which lead to the roof. This acted as an entrance to the HMO and put tenants at serious danger through the landlord’s irresponsible management of the property.

Cabinet member for environment, Councillor Osman Dervish, spoke out about the scheme’s success in clearing up the buy to let sector: ‘In Havering, we are targeting irresponsible landlords as we are seeing the rise of inadequate HMOs and we will not tolerate it. These rogue landlords are taking advantage of local families in the community with overcrowded and poorly maintained properties.’

The Councillor continued: ‘We’re being proactive in our efforts to crack down on this issue now, before it increases. We are one of the few boroughs who have this scheme in place and I’m pleased with what we have achieved so far, but there is more to do! Landlords of HMOs should take note and licence now to avoid such financial penalties.’

Source: Residential Landlord