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Wrexham lettings agent and landlord prosecuted by council over HMO regulation breach

A private landlord in Wrexham has been prosecuted by Wrexham Council for operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO).

At Mold Magistrates Court yesterday, landlord Jane Sabio – who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing – was fined £5,000, with costs of £1,697 and a £170 victim surcharge also imposed.

An officer from the council’s Environmental Health and Housing Standards team found the unlicensed HMO during an inspection following up on a complaint due to lack of repairs.

Letting agents Countrywide, trading as Beresford Adams, also pleaded guilty to a number of breaches at the same property, including inadequate fire safety measures and failing to supply an electrical safety certificate to Wrexham Council.

In sentencing at Wrexham Magistrates Court earlier this month, Countrywide was fined a total of £22,500, plus a £107 victim surcharge and £2,819 costs.

Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for communities, partnerships, public protection and community safety, said: “The council is proactively working with landlords and letting agents to assist them in raising standards for tenants.

“But if they choose not to cooperate and not to comply with the legal requirements, we will have no hesitation in taking firm enforcement action, as this case demonstrates.”

Wrexham Council say: “Most landlords and letting agents ensure HMOs are properly licensed and maintained, but if your landlord or letting agent fails to acquire an HMO licence or carry out the necessary repairs and make adequate fire safety arrangements, you can contact the Environmental Health and Housing Standards team by e-mail at HealthandHousing@wrexham.gov.uk or on 01978 292040.

“We keep a list of currently licensed HMOs on our website, and also provide information on what an HMO is, and how they can be licensed.”

Source: Wrexham

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Appeal launched over refusal of plans to increase rooms at Wrexham HMO

An appeal has been launched after a bid to increase the number of bedrooms at a house in multiple occupation (HMO) near Wrexham town centre was turned down.

Landlord Arran Pritchard applied to Wrexham Council in January to up the amount of bedrooms at a property on Poplar Road from six to seven.

However, the local authority issued a decision to reject the proposals after planning officers said there were not enough parking spaces outside.

Mr Pritchard has now submitted an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in an attempt to have the outcome overturned.

In documents entered to support his case, he claimed most people living in HMOs don’t own a car, meaning the small increase would not cause a problem.

Highlighting a survey of the number of vehicles owned by tenants across the 23 properties he lets in the town, he said: “Here attached are two “vehicles per room” assessments, conducted in September 2015 and May 2016.

“They show that for 146 rooms/ occupants, there are just 17 to 25 occupants with vehicles, or one vehicle for every five rooms.

“This is largely due to all the rooms being in the town centre and tenants generally not being able to afford a vehicle.

“The planning application is to increase the number of rooms by the minimum possible, from six rooms to seven rooms. A comparable planning application, refusal, and successful appeal is the planning case for 33 Park Street, Wrexham.”

Mr Pritchard previously attempted to increase the total number of bedrooms at the property to eight but permission was denied on similar grounds.

Despite appealing the decision on the original application, a planning inspector appointed by the Welsh Government agreed with the council’s views.

In her decision notice, Siân Worden said she felt the proposals would impact on the safety of drivers at a busy junction.

She said: “The appeal property is in a busy area where there are widespread parking restrictions and many of the dwellings do not have off-street parking. There thus appears to be a high demand for on-street spaces.

“The proposed development would result in a small increase in the number of vehicles requiring parking spaces in the vicinity.

“Even so, it would increase the hazard on the local road network, and reduce its efficient use, by resulting in more drivers searching for a parking space.”

Mr Pritchard’s latest appeal will considered at a future date.

By Liam Randall

Source: Wrexham

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HMO Sector To Grow As Investors Expand Property Portfolios

New data released has shown that the HMO sector is likely to grow with over a fifth of landlords planning to expand their portfolio with the addition of an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation).

The HMO sector is proving to be attractive to professional landlords in a time of market uncertainty, with HMO landlords achieving the highest average rental yields at 6.3 per cent compared with the market average of 5.5 per cent.

The research from specialist lender Precise Mortgages shows average rental yields across the market as a whole are at their lowest for nine years, highlighting the attraction of the HMO sector. Average yields for all property types dropped 0.3 per cent in the second quarter from 5.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year and are now at their lowest level since 2010.

Terraced houses are proving to be the most popular choice for buy to let property investors, with 50 per cent of landlords planning to buy a terraced property. However, the research also shows 40 per cent of landlords also plan to sell terraced houses in the year ahead. By contrast, just 8 per cent of landlords holding properties in the HMO sector plan to sell them.

Blocks of flats are also set for growth, with 8 per cent of landlords planning to buy compared with just 5 per cent planning to sell.

Landlords with between 11 and 19 properties are earning the highest average yields at 5.9 per cent with the North West the best area of the UK for yields, earning an average 5.9 per cent. Landlords with 11 or more properties have an average of three different property types in their portfolio.

Managing Director of Precise Mortgages, Alan Cleary, said: ‘In a time of market uncertainty, HMOs are an attractive option for professional landlords looking to maximise yields. As HMOs attract multiple tenancies, gross rental income tends to outstrip single lets meaning the rental income is more secure if one tenant leaves a void.’

He continued: ‘The expansion of the HMO sector underlines how experienced landlords are re-balancing their portfolios. It also demonstrates the opportunity for brokers to work with specialist lenders who have expertise across the widest product set to support clients who are reassessing their portfolios.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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HMO landlord in Birmingham hit with £2,000 penalty

A landlord has been hit with a £2,000 penalty for fire safety breaches at a two-storey property housing nine people in a landmark case for Birmingham City Council.

Officers visited the house in multiple occupation (HMO) in Small Heath in November and found there to be no interlinked fire alarm, fire doors or fire blanket, and a lack of fire separation in the building.

The council stated the landlord co-operated with the investigation and swiftly completed the necessary work to a high standard meaning the penalty was reduced to £2,000 after it was originally set at a higher a figure.

The property owner is the first to be punished under new civil penalty regulations in Birmingham after the council updated its policy earlier this year.

The move gave them powers to issue penalties of up to £30,000 for offences such as overcrowding and failure to comply with management regulations.

The council said it was not allowed to provide the exact address of the Small Heath HMO or name the landlord saying the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had issued ‘strict guidance’on what information could be released.

A spokeswoman added: “The ultimate goal of civil penalties and our BCC policy is to prevent any further offending but to also help ensure that the landlord fully complies with all of their legal responsibilities in the future.”

Now, all rented buildings occupied by five or more people from two or more households require a HMO licence from the council.

A law change in October saw a three-storey threshold scrapped.

There are around 1,900 licensed HMOs in Birmingham but the council estimates there are more than 4,000 unlicensed properties.

The authority stated it is working to raise awareness of the October law change and encourage landlords to proactively apply for a licence as opposed to taking immediate enforcement action at this stage.

The council charges a £1,150 fee for a new licence application, which is typically granted for five years, with income ring-fenced to cover costs associated with issuing licences and finding other unlicensed HMOs.

While money from penalties will be spent on housing matters.

The Small Heath property was not licensed at the time of the inspection but was not penalised for this due to a three-month grace period from October for landlords to apply.

Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, said: “While there are a great many landlords who provide excellent accommodation, inevitably there are some who will only respond and make necessary improvements on threat of financial penalties or legal action.

“With that in mind, I’m delighted that the recent change in policy has improved our effectiveness and ultimately enabled us to take enforcement action against landlords who are letting substandard accommodation.

“HMO properties have a massive role to play in providing affordable housing to people in Birmingham, particularly as we are in the midst of a national housing crisis.

“However, these properties must also meet building and fire safety standards, be properly regulated, appropriately licensed and ultimately provide good quality housing for citizens who are paying a monthly rent.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the private-rented sector to ensure that people have a broad range of choice for housing in Birmingham.”

By Carl Jackson

Source: Express and Star