On top of the punishing stamp duty and section 24 changes of 2017, HMO landlords are now being clobbered with a national extension of HMO licensing, navigating a proposal to introduce three-year tenancy agreement. Is the future bright? Is the future still HMO?
Proposed three year tenancies
Cities up and down the country have bid their student cohorts farewell for the summer and left (some) landlords picking up the rubbish or the one-year-only appliances slapped with the post-it note “works fine but we don’t want it!” – another toaster is added to the tip collection.
And it’s a busy time for student landlords to say the least. I recently drove down the street in Sheffield where we own several HMO’s and it looked apocalyptic! The strewn rubbish of hastily vacated digs of now ex-occupiers heading off to Ibiza, festivals and a break from university.But new government proposals aim to force landlords to offer tenants a minimum three years contract – with tenants able to leave earlier (break clause) should they wish.
The proposal comes at a time when home ownership is at its lowest in 30 years, some 14.3m households (of a total 22.8m) are owner occupied in England (62.9%), according to the English Housing Survey, produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). According to the same report, the private rented sector now accounts for 4.5m households, double the 2.3m in 2004, or 20% of total households as opposed to 10% of total households back in 2004.
While home ownership levels have remained relatively unchanged in the last three years, the private rented sector is a different story, particularly when paired with the latest demographics seeking entry to the current property market.
In 2005-06, 24% of 25-34 year olds were privately renting, that figure is now 46% in 2017. In the same period, 25-34 year olds buying a home with a mortgage dropped from 53% to 35%.
The proposal, which seeks to lengthen the common six-month to 1 year tenancy agreements (currently thought to be around 80% of all contract lengths), looks to give tenants more control, security and longevity in their houses.
Extensions to mandatory HMO licencing scheme – October 2018
While the UK housing market depends on the private sector investing in houses, it is also bumping up price inflation with knock on economic effects. As a measure, the government has sought to curtail the tax relief that BTL investors have enjoyed, forcing many out of the market and reducing the sector to a sustainable size. But there’s more to come. Long in the cross-hairs of government, the HMO sector has seen particularly heavy regulation with an extension to mandatory licensing requirements, tightening up on the number of storeys loophole as well as new minimum room sizes (see below).
That could be as many as 177,000 HMOs becoming subject to mandatory licensing in England, according Residential Landlords Association research.
From October 2018, the main change to HMO legislation will be the removal of the three storey rule. In the majority of cases, a property occupied by 5 or more individuals forming two or more households will become licensable, irrespective of the number of floors in the property. Landlords will also have to adhere to a new minimum room size standard. Especially for landlords with attic rooms, it’s important to note the ‘size’ will only be considered where there is 1.5m in celling height.
- Minimum double room size: 10.22sqm
- Minimum single room size: 6.51sqm
There will also be a mandatory requirement for landlords to adhere to council refuse schemes to ensure that HMO properties have adequate waste management facilities.
Will the three year tenancy proposal affect HMO landlords?
There shouldn’t be a direct effect. The proposal is considering making student accommodation exempt as the sector clearly follows academic turnover and, indeed, the higher education sector relies more heavily on private accommodation than many others – this is already the case in Scotland. There is less clarity around the young professional house share market though.
Of more concern is what it does to other BTL landlords. Those who have not already sold off part of their portfolios to afford mortgage repayments following the newly introduced tax pressures, could now face even greater reluctance from lenders.
David Smith of the Residential Landlords Association responded cautiously to the new proposal: “We would warn against making it a statutory requirement to introduce three year tenancies. Many tenants simply do not want to be tied to a property long term.
“It is vital that the market is able to provide the flexibility that many need in order to swiftly access new work and educational opportunities.” says Smith.
While the proposal allows landlords to increase rent once a year to reflect interest rate changes, it does not however provide a repossession clause. This may make many lenders reluctant to shoulder the added risk (should the landlord default and the property not repossessed for three years) and may lead to even higher interest rates on Buy-To-Let mortgages.
This could mean more BTL landlords dropping out of the market altogether or, more landlords turning to the exempt sectors, such as student accommodation, actually making the HMO market more competitive.