HMO…..what’s that then?

22 05 2013

HMO is a House in Multiple Occupation.
A house is a HMO if:
At least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
You share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants
A household consists of either a single person or members of the same family who live together. It includes people who are married or living together and people in same-sex relationships.

Here are some Questions and Answers that our legal team have recently dealt with in relation to HMO’s.

Question
Tenant in arrears, rents a room in HMO, just called her and she has confirmed she has moved out.Tenancy still running. We have no forwarding address but a work place contact. Room cleared and keys on the bed. Has she surrendered? How do we get her to sign notice? Or do we have to put the abandonment notice up? When can the landlord re-let the property?
Answer
I assume that you have the landlords permission to accept surrender. If this is the case it would be preferable to get a letter of formal surrender signed by the tenant. She may be persuaded to do this as this stops further accumulation of her liability with regard to rental arrears. The landlord will need to decide if he is going to pursue the rental arrears or move on. If the tenant will not co-operate then you could assume implied surrender and re let. If the tenant subsequently tried to argue this you have documented evidence on your file that you tried to contact them and their actions strongly indicated they had surrendered the tenancy. As a further precaution you could obtain confirmation from the other occupants of the HMO that they understood that she had moved out and did not intend to return.

Question
Can you please confirm if there is a requirement to have Student Properties (HMO) PAT tested? Our current landlord does this every two years anyway but can you advise if there is a rule in place for students, unlike normal rental properties.
Answer
There are no special rules for students. However, HMO Management regulations place an obligation on managers to maintain fixtures, fittings or appliances in good and safe repair and clean working order. There is no specific guidance on frequency of testing, but you do have a duty of care. If there was a problem it would be up to the court to decide whether, in addition to regular visual inspection of appliances, whether two yearly intervals for PAT testing was a frequent enough time scale.

Question
We have a large property that has a separate Annex with its own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, lounge, etc. We have 2 couples that would like to take it, one of the couples will live in the main house, and the other couple will live in the Annex. They are not married, and not related. The Landlord is concerned that it will then be classed as an HMO (the annex is not registered as a separate dwelling, so technically it is the same address). Is there any way round this and what are the implications? Could we do 2 Tenancy Agreements – one for the house and one for the Annex??
Answer
As the units appear to be self-contained, providing they have their own front door and all amenities behind it, then on the face of it this is not an HMO situation. Concerns are if they can only enter from the main house, in which case there would be shared areas; or if the annexe was a conversion which took place before the Building Regulations 1991. Although the Housing Act 2004, specifically mentions converted “flats” it would be best to seek clarification from the local authority if there is any doubt. With regard to the tenancy agreements, even in an HMO it is possible to grant an AST for exclusive use of some areas; usually a room but it could be a larger area. So you could give ASTs with a licence for any common parts and/or shared areas within the curtilage of the property.

Question
If a property is on a company let agreement and there are four unrelated people staying there is that classed as a HMO?
Answer
A nice and simple YES.

If you do have any queries with regards HMOs then please just ask.

Tel: 01782 478 444 Email: stoke-on-trent@belvoirlettings.com

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