TOUGH RULES GOVERN THE MANAGEMENT OF SHARED HOUSES OR HMOS
There are specific rules governing the management of larger shared houses says David Lawrenson of LettingFocus.com.
The Housing Act 2004 regulations on licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) for England and Wales have been law for a quite a few years now.
It set out management standards for all HMOs of any size, even those that won’t actually need a licence under the new rules.
The Act must have made the UK’s plumbers lick their lips because the regulations on amenity standards for the larger HMOs were tough and meant that landlords in some areas had to install new washbasins.
HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION
The basic standards in the rules are as follows, though local authorities are free to set higher standards if they wish:
For kitchen facilities, there should be enough sinks with draining boards as well as equipment for cooking food, electrical sockets, cupboards, freezer space and refrigerators as well as extractor fans, fire blankets and fire doors.
For washing facilities, if there are four or less occupiers, there must be at least one bathroom with a bath or shower and one toilet (which can be located in the bathroom.)
These basic rules should not present a problem for most landlords.
Other amenity standards say that there must be enough fire precaution facilities and equipment, each unit of living accommodation should be adequately heated, baths, showers and wash hand basins must have hot and cold running water, bathrooms should be heated and ventilated and both bathrooms and kitchens must be of suitable size and layout.
However, for 5 or more occupiers, the regulations are much tighter and may present issues for some landlords.
For these larger HMOs, the rules say there must be one separate toilet (which should also have a hand wash basin) and at least separate one bathroom for every 5 occupiers. Again, fairly reasonable.
But the rules go on to say that for 5 or more occupiers, each “unit of living accommodation” must contain a washbasin or sink.
The killer here was the requirement to have a separate wash hand basin in each unit of accommodation as well as another one in a shared loo for properties with 5 or more occupiers.
According to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), the local authorities who are responsible for licensing - can’t see the point of this. Neither apparently could the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers - the professional body for the enforcing officials.
However, landlords should always check with their local authority to see exactly what approach is being taken locally because local councils do have a considerable degree of flexibility on this.
ELECTRICAL SAFETY CHECKS AND HMOs
Another area for all landlords to look out for - and which affects all HMOs of any size, even those with just three people - is the requirement to check electrical certification is up to date.
These formal checks on the electrical installation, for which a report is issued from a qualified electrician, have to be done every 5 years.
Local authorities also have powers to restrict the number of properties being turned into HMOs in their area using what are called "Article 4 Directions."
There is vigorous opposition from many people involved in housing to this, and not just from landlords but also from student and tenant groups.
We are monitoring how local applications for Article 4 Directions are being played out around the UK.
For the latest information on this and other topics of interest to the private rented sector, please check our blog.
This is a very short guide to a big subject. If you need more help, please get in touch.
ABOUT DAVID LAWRENSON AND LETTINGFOCUS
At LettingFocus.com our main work is our consultancy, in which capacity we help organisations and public bodies with their products and services for the private rented sector.
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Copyright 2011 David Lawrenson. This article must not be copied or re-used without the author and copyright owner’s prior permission.
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