Certificate of Lawfulness for a HMO

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I have a question regarding what would be acceptable information for a planning department to give a Certificate of Lawfulness for a property I am potentially looking to purchase.

Background:

Property in question is the heart of one of the areas where 80-90% of all properties are of class 4 use. As many of you are aware since March 8 2012 there has been a change in the rules relating to HMO’S and planning.

So now any property which didn’t already have C4 use will not be able to obtain it in the Nottingham City area, Thus causing these properties to lose a large percentage of there potential value and prove extremely hard to sell as families rarely want to live in these areas that are dominated by students.

I am currently looking at a property that doesn’t have a HMO license, but has clearly been used as one. Evidence being fire doors on all rooms, which i know isn’t enough evidence to obtain the COL. Also a large bundle of letters addressed not to the Property owner but a number 5+ of individuals, who resided at the address prior to its sale.

It is extremely hard to obtain information on council tax as it is not readily available due to data protection.

I would appreciate any advice on this matter

Kind Regards

Ian SainiCertificate of Lawfulness for a HMO

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Comments

  • Hello.

    Very tricky indeed. This sounds like a property I may have viewed myself!

    This will either take a cash rich investor who is prepared to risk it, or an ignorant investor who is short on all the facts and due diligence required surrounding HMOs with the likes of Article 4 in place.

    With the likely implementation of Additional Licensing in the City, I suspect such a purchase without the correct Due Diligence and Established Use having been accepted with a Certificate of Lawfulness will fall foul at the licence application point. The check on the planning use permissions and/or Established Use checks at the point of licence application will mean the buyer could not prove it at this point in time.

    This would leave the purchaser only able to let the property as a C3 Dwellinghouse, to families essentially.

    There does not seem to be an accepted method. No one wants to supply former information for fear of data breaches, so if the old owner cannot provide the evidences then it is definitely Buyer Beware.

    If you come up with the necessary proofs eventually, please do share, I would be interested to hear.


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  • Reply to the comment left by “Phil” at “10/07/2013 – 00:26″:

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I definitely agree due diligence is the key, especially when taking into account the sums of money that are required when investing in property.

    I don’t classify myself as a cash rich investor, however even if i did have a large % of the capital required, it would be foolish of myself to invest without being 99.9% sure i would receive the COL. as the value of the asset & revenue/yield would not meet my criteria. Thus making me an ignorant investor as you have identified.

    I have followed your link to your letting’s Agency and would be interested in having a chat regarding a house i am currently refurbishing and looking to rent to students in the Beeston area. My number is 07974 251863 & look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind Regards

    Ian


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  • Ian

    A couple of thoughts off the top of my head which may help augment your evidence:

    Electoral roll? Check out occupants over a series of years
    If a student house- ask University accommodation office to see if they have verified C Tax exemptions (they don’t have to give you student names)
    Find out from neighbours and owners/likely fellow landlords (Land Reg) of adjoining properties, who may be prepared to give you a letter, or better still, a statutory declaration that the property has been multilet
    Zoopla, for Lettings history

    Hope one or more of these help…


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  • If the current owner wants to sell for whatever reason, you could put in an offer subject to him obtaining the COL. This would get around the problem of data protection as he is the current owner.
    I would have thought he would have most of this information anyway. Can’t he provide copies of old ASTs, etc?
    You could then reimburse costs on completion, or on some other agreed split and timings.

    I must admit I’m not from the Nottingham area so the rules may be different, but here in Leamington Spa, proof of C4 use prior to Article 4 implementation is enough to have the property classified as C4 use now. This includes ASTs, which are the most reliable proof due to the number of signatories, and the paperwork involved.


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  • Reply to the comment left by “Alex” at “10/07/2013 – 14:35″:

    I suspect it is either a Death Estate purchase or a Repossession. In both cases there is a barrier, commonly insurmountable, to obtaining such information or placing a condition on the purchase.

    Ian, I will give you a call to discuss further.


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  • I don’t see why council tax data should be unavailable due to the never-ending excuse of “data protection”. Even if the council tax department won’t release names to you, it may be able to release names across to its own sister department in Planning, or at the very least to confirm that there were multiple occupants. Of course this is no help if the landlord or only one tenant was nominated to pay the council tax.

    Have you asked Planning what information they require? They may not need actual names, just a weight of evidence from a variety of sources. Hence the electoral roll may be useful, to tie up with the names on the bundles of letters, as would queries with neighbours, local estate agents etc.

    Try asking the credit reference agencies and the DVLA if they are prepared to divulge whether they have multiple concurrent records relating to the address in question. You don’t need specific names, just numbers, so I struggle to see why this should be a data protection issue.

    A long shot might be using a tracing service, like that offered by Landlord Action, to find some of the people named on the letters, and have a chat with them about the previous set-up at the house.


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