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Students win rent refund from unlicensed landlord

Five students from Leeds have won a rent refund from their landlord who failed to acquire a House in Multiple Occupation licence (HMO).

Ben Leonard, a postgraduate student, and his four housemates found out their home didn’t have an HMO licence when their landlord applied to Leeds City Council for one halfway through the tenancy.

A HMO must be held by any home occupied by five or more unrelated people who share communal facilities, with at least one tenant paying rent. It confirms the house has the correct safety certificates, that fire alarms are present and working and whoever is in charge of the property is qualified. It also confirms that the landlord does not have a criminal record.

Landlords who don’t have a HMO face fines of up to £30,000, including repaying up to 12 months of rent to their tenants, via a rent repayment order (RRO), which is what happened to Leonard’s landlord.

A housing officer from Leeds City Council informed the tenants that the council was taking action against landlord and explained that they were entitled to seek an RRO.

The tenants made their application, which included evidence of paying rent, bank statements and the tenancy agreement, which was accepted and the landlord was taken to court. He pleaded guilty and, after bills were deducted from the amount owed, as well as a further deduction due to the landlord’s financial situation, each tenant was owed around £2,000.

‘Incredible response’
After winning the case, Leonard told the BBC he received an “incredible” response on Twitter earlier this month. He was inundated with messages from other tenants who felt their landlords might have cases to answer.

The case coincides with the government’s announcement two weeks ago that they plan to repeal Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988), which allows landlords to evict tenants at the end of their fixed-term, and put an end to ‘no-fault’ evictions.

The change in the law would, the government said, “protect tenants from having to make frequent and short notice moves, and will enable them to plan for the future.”

Written by: Max Liu

Source: Your Money

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Landlords warned to prepare for new HMO rules

FROM April 1, the licensing laws for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Northern Ireland have changed.

Mandatory HMO licensing is being extended because of concerns about the number of HMOs operated by landlords who rent out sub-standard, overcrowded and dangerous accommodation, exploit vulnerable tenants and in some cases defraud the public purse.

A house in multiple occupation is a single property in which multiple households live and share basic amenities. A typical HMO may have a kitchen and/or bathroom shared between two or more rented households. These laws do not apply to rented flats or apartments with separate facilities.

According to figures obtained by the BBC, there are over 6,000 HMOs in Northern Ireland, with more than 4,000 based in Belfast.

Under the new scheme, all HMOs in Northern Ireland must hold a valid licence and landlords without licences or found to be in breach of the conditions of their licence, risk significant fines of up to £20,000 and/or prosecution.

HMOs previously been registered with the NI Housing Executive, which still benefit from valid unexpired licences, will automatically transfer to the new local council scheme. HMO licenses are valid for a period of five years and must be renewed periodically.

The licensing of all HMOs in Northern Ireland is now managed by the relevant local council. The ultimate purpose of the new legislation is to ensure that the accommodation is safe for the tenants and surrounding neighbours.

Under the legislation, landlords must have an anti-social behaviour plan in place and keep a record of instances of anti-social behaviour and what actions have been taken by the landlord to deal with the situation. Landlords will be provided with a guide from the Council, advising them on how to tackle these issues.

The legislation also requires HMOs to adhere to certain health and safety standards. The property must benefit from valid up to date safety and maintenance certificates for all relevant appliances.

From April 15, tenants of HMOs will be able to contact their local council to check if the property they reside in is registered as a HMO. Under the legislation, the tenant can report their landlord to their local council if the tenant suspects that there is not a valid licence in place or if the conditions of the licence are being breached.

The local council has the power to impose certain conditions on licenses and revoke HMO licenses if conditions are not being met.

The rules could have a major impact on city landlords who rent out premises to students and the growing number of professionals who share houses and flats.

By Oonagh Murdock

Source: Irish News

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Flintshire HMO Landlord Prosecuted

A Flintshire HMO landlord has been prosecuted for several offences under legislation designed to protect tenants living in shared accommodation.

Environmental health officers at Flintshire Council visited the Flintshire House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) owned by landlord Glyn Trevor Roberts in July 2018.

The inspection revealed numerous deficiencies including no working fire alarms, no fire doors, defective electrics and inadequate bathroom amenities.

The Flintshire landlord also subsequently ignored requests made under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006 to produce gas and electrical testing certificates.

An improvement notice was served by Flintshire Council under the Housing Act 2004 and a subsequent inspection found that the improvement notice had not been complied with and that the gas boiler had been condemned for safety reasons.

The council then took the matter to Wrexham Magistrates Court. Mr Roberts pleaded guilty to all six offences relating to the property – in Connaught Avenue, Shotton.

The six offences included failing to comply with an Improvement Notice, failing to register rental property, failing to obtain a licence to manage rental property and failure to supply gas and electrical test certificates.

Mr Roberts claimed to be in financial difficulties and the property was due to be sold within the next six weeks. However, he was found guilty of all six offences and in sentencing was fined £600. He was also ordered to pay a contribution of £200 to Flintshire Council’s costs.

The Flintshire landlord was told that breaches of such legislation could end in tragedy and that if it weren’t for his financial situation, the scale of the fines would have been much greater.

Flintshire Council’s chief officer for planning, environment and economy, Andrew Farrow, said: ‘This successful prosecution sends a clear message that Flintshire County Council will not tolerate the poor management of Houses in Multiple Occupation.

‘This legislation is designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable residents.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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HMO Investment Key As One Person Households Increase

Many buy to let investors are looking at HMO investment as the number of one person households increases.

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of one person households is continuing to rise, up 16 per cent to 7.7 million over the two decades from 1997 to 2017. This is projected to hit 10.7 million by 2039.

This trend has largely been driven by older age groups and as a result of greater numbers of children born in the 1960s and exacerbated by an increase in singles and divorcees.

The higher cost of living for one person households has also been highlighted, with those doing so spending up to 92 per cent of their income leaving little room to save. The biggest expenditure is housing costs including rent and bills.

Those living alone are also less likely to own their own home and therefore look for rented accommodation.

In addition, living alone also has implications that stretch beyond the financial burden. One person households have the lowest measure of wellbeing of all house hold types.

Whilst rented property can still be expensive for one person households, many are turning towards shared accommodation to help balance the budget and also provide company.

Buy to let investors who can offer quality shared accommodation are likely to reap the benefits the trend towards one person households with higher than average yields.

Co-founder of ideal flatmate, Tom Gatzen, commented: ‘The current cost of living is making it tough for many to get by, but shouldering this financial burden alone makes it all the more difficult.

‘While we are currently seeing an upward trend in single occupant living as a result of a growing population and social factors such as an increase in divorce rates, we are also seeing a similar increase across other living habits such as co-living.

‘While living alone is more prevalent across older age groups, we’re seeing a growing preference amongst younger generations to live in share households. This is not only helping them to address the financial issues head on but can also help with other disadvantages associated with living alone such as a lower level of wellbeing.

‘If properly considered and developed, this lifestyle trend could go some way in addressing the predicted uplift in those living alone over the next two decades and the negative impact that this could have on this segment of the population.’

Soruce: Residential Landlord

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Shotton landlord fined for leaving tenants without fire alarms, faulty electrics and an inadequate bathroom

A private sector landlord has been prosecuted for a number of offences under housing legislation designed to protect tenants living in shared accommodation

Flintshire Environmental Health Officers inspected a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) at  7 Connaught Avenue in Shotton last July

They discovered the house had no working fire alarms, no fire doors, defective electrics and inadequate bathroom amenities.

The property owner Glyn Roberts had ignored requests made under HMO to produce gas and electrical testing certificates.

An Improvement Notice was served under the Housing Act 2004, a follow up inspection found that the Improvement Notice had not been complied with and that the gas boiler had been condemned for safety reasons.

Glyn Trevor Roberts pleaded guilty to all 6 offences relating to the property at Wrexham Magistrates Court.

Offences included failing to comply with an Improvement Notice, failing to register rental property, failing to obtain a licence to manage rental property and failure to supply gas and electrical test certificates.

In mitigation it was heard that Mr Roberts was in financial difficulties and was expecting to complete a sale on the property within the next six weeks and would then no longer be a landlord.

Mr Roberts was found guilty of all 6 offences and in sentencing was fined £600.

He was also ordered to pay a contribution of £200 to Flintshire County Council’s costs.

In sentencing, Mr Roberts was warned that breaches of such legislation could end in tragedy and that if it weren’t for his financial situation, the scale of the fines would have been much greater.

Flintshire County Council’s Chief Officer for Planning, Environment and Economy, Andrew Farrow, said:

“This successful prosecution sends a clear message that Flintshire County Council will not tolerate the poor management of Houses in Multiple Occupation.

This legislation is designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable residents. 

It reflects Flintshire County Council’s commitment to ensuring homes in the private rented sector are in good repair, have all the necessary amenities and are properly managed.”

Source: Deeside