Are Lambeth’s Proposed Additional HMO Conditions Illegal?

Are Lambeth’s Proposed Additional HMO Conditions Illegal?

11:08 AM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago 17

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Lambeth Council is consulting on the introduction of Additional HMO licences – deadline 12th March. There seem to be quite a few conditions that I would think are unenforceable/unmanageable and would like to know your views please so that I can respond to them.

It seems the council don’t know the difference between an HMO (rooms rented separately/locked bedroom) and bedsits, and a house-share with friends. This document has been written for the former but would still apply to the latter (which is my perspective).

Below are my key concerns taken from their document:

– A charge of £522 per habitable room (the highest per-room fee in London) which includes receptions.

– Hard-wired inter-linked smoke & heat alarms – they specify that bathrooms and loos will also require smoke alarms as they class these as “habitable” – surely this can’t be right? (I’m assuming they are not classed as “habitable” as far as the fee-per-room is concerned).

– “Where a bedroom is provided for a child under the age of ten, the bedroom shall be adjacent to or directly across from the bedroom occupied by the parent/legal guardian of that child”. Can they dictate which rooms your tenants sleep in? Victorian houses usually have a large front bed, medium middle bed and small back bed. This would mean that with 2 kids, either the parents would have to sleep in the middle room, or the older child in the small room.

– A child cannot sleep in a bedroom with an en-suite. I don’t see why not, especially if they have mobility issues.

-” Where a bedroom is provided for a child under the age of ten the bedroom shall be fitted with a form of wireless door sensor, which sounds when the door is opened. The receiving unit for the wireless door sounder shall be provided to the parent/legal guardian.” Really – who will put up with a buzzer going off day and night? If the child gets up to go to the loo in the middle of the night (as they can’t have an en-suite) the buzzer could wake up the whole house. I’m imaging this would be deactivated by tenants on day one! (Or be classed as ASB!)

– “A child’s bedroom will be lockable (thumb turn lock) with two keys provided to the parent/legal guardian.” So children can lock themselves in their bedroom? What if they have depression/self-harm/other issues? How can parents monitor what they’re doing i.e. screen time. Yes, they can have a key but…

– Heating: Where heating is provided by a gas or electric central heating system, the gas or electricity supply must be via a quarterly credit meter and not a key or card meter” Except that a tenant has the right to change the meter without informing the LL and some tenants prefer key/card meters so how could we comply/remain compliant? What if the tenants have poor credit history and the supplier insists on a key/card meter?

– “Electricity supplies to automatic fire detection and alarm systems and emergency lighting shall be from a landlord’s supply.” “The Licence Holder will be required to ensure that gas or electricity supplies to common parts or shared amenities are on the landlord’s supplies.” This would mean that our 2/3 bed Victorian houses have to be re-wired and a 2nd meter installed where electricity is paid for by the LL. I have no idea how the LL could pay for the heating of common parts in a house.

– “The licence holder will need to attend courses stipulated by the council.” Didn’t this requirement get shot down when another council tried it?

– “The Licence Holder must ensure that the common parts of the house are at all times adequately heated and provided with lighting, as necessary.” How do we ensure that, other than providing working boilers & electricity? If tenants don’t replace light bulbs or turn on the heating, how can LLs be liable?

– “The licence holder shall, where possible, install water-saving devices to the bathroom and kitchen facilities provided including (but not limited to): • Tap aerators • Shower flow regulators • Shower timer devices • Combismart – thermostatic valve – only where Combination Boilers are fitted. • Toilet cistern – flush water-use reduction devices.” This states, “where possible”, not where financially viable”.

– “Infectious Disease Control: In the event or either a national or local outbreak of an infectious disease that is spread by air, water or touch, the licence holder shall as a minimum put in place the following measures:

• Notify all occupants in writing or the nature of the infectious disease, how it is spread and the measures put in place at the HMO to limit its spread. Provide a Notice, clearly displayed, in an accessible common area, setting out the nature of the infectious disease, how it is spread and the measures put in place at the HMO to limit its spread.

• Clean: Increase the frequency of the cleaning schedule for all the common areas in the HMO, including living and dining areas, shared bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. The minimum frequency should be three times a week. The cleaning regime should include (but is not limited to) the sanitisation/disinfection of: o Door and window handles and locks, o Doors, handles and controls of all white goods communally provided, o Taps and plugs, o Showers, o Baths, o Wash hand basins, o Toilets, o Shared surfaces, e.g. dining tables, chairs, coffee tables, etc. o All shared surfaces and cupboards used in the storage, preparation and cooking of food and making drinks, o The doors, handles and controls of cooking appliances and kettles.

• Sanitise: Provide hand sanitiser stations in each common room including living and dining areas, shared bathrooms, toilets and kitchens and at the main entrance to the HMO. The sanitiser should not be diluted in any way and supplied in pump action containers for ease of use. Examples of infectious disease that would require these measures to be put in place are, COVID19, Tuberculosis, SARS-CoV, cholera, etc.

The licence holder must inform the Council by email HMOLicensing@lambeth.gov.uk within 72 hours of becoming aware of the occurrence of an outbreak.”

Do they not realise that cleaning at £13ph x 2 hours x 3 pw x 4 weeks would add £312 pm to the monthly rent, which would ultimately be paid by the tenant?

Surely a LL cannot force tenants to have a certain cleaning regime, and why are we now responsible for providing undiluted, pump-action sanitisers in all habitable rooms? If tenants are responsible enough to be able to live independently, why are we to treat them like children?

– “The licence holder shall ensure that any items of bulky household furniture (such as mattresses/bed bases/fridges etc.) are disposed of in a responsible manner using a licenced waste carrier or the Council’s chargeable bulky waste collection service.” I’m not sure how a LL can ensure this, short of the LL actually handling the disposal.

– “Labelling of furniture, soft furnishings, kitchen appliances and white goods. The licence holder shall label any furniture, soft furnishing and kitchen appliances and white goods provided at the property, using a suitable indelible marker pen (removable labels are not acceptable) with the address and, where relevant, the room number the articles relate too, e.g. Room 1, 38, postcode. The labelling should be readable and clear. The license holder will regularly check the labelling and re-label should the existing labelling have faded to the point it can no longer be read.” So all those beautiful sofas, curtains, soft furnishings etc that we may provide will be written on in sharpie and need to be checked for legibility on a regular basis???

I would class this as vandalism, and it would prevent/limit any future sale of such items. And thinking about my own home, if I were ever to rent it out, there is no way I would deface all my possessions like this.

– “Cleaning of Shared Rooms and Spaces: It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that all shared rooms and spaces e.g. communal lounges, kitchens, bathrooms and corridors are cleaned.” How can a LL ensure this? To what standard? How often? Who pays for it? How is it monitored?

I plan to respond to the consultation over the weekend and would appreciate any help/advice/suggestions, especially on the points raised above.

Heather



Comments

by Ros poldermans

12:10 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

With all of the above I will not be getting an HMO big problems?

by DSR

16:55 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

OMG ! Sorry but this reads as a list of reasons not to even go down the HMO route.
I have recently sold a property for that precise reason. 5 bed but would not get more than the 4 bed LHA rate, so only real financial sense was to go down the HMO route. Investigated the possibility of letting to 'Agents' who wanted it via Rent2Rent arrangement then realised that in itself is a disaster waiting to happen and the legal burden will fall on me the LL irrespective of if I used an agent or not.
Sold lock stock and barrel (beds/ furniture etc) to a newbie who is looking to go down the HMO route (probably startled by the £'s being offered by 'Agents').
I watch with interest to see how he gets on...!
For me - too hot a political and legal potato to handle.

by Badger

19:04 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

I'm glad I was not eating my cornflakes when I started to read this thread.

Otherwise I would be cleaning them off my laptop now.

It is almost impossible to believe that such a set of conditions can be real (though I'm certain that they are...)

by Alistair Cooper

19:21 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

Of course the net result of ludicrous and over zealous enforcement and regulation by Councils, who in their own right have no idea whatsoever of how to run an HMO is to cause the supply of such affordable housing to further decrease as more and more landlords look for an easier route to generating an income or give up all together.
This in turn harms the very tenants they claim to be trying to protect!
The net cost of even trying to comply with the above could top £600 pcm per property. I think most tenants would rather buy their own hand sanitiser for £1 than face a 20% hike in rent!
And most 16 yr olds would rather be as far away from their parents as possible and would feel it safer and more private to use an en-suite than walk through a corridor after sounding an alarm to use the toilet!
You do begin to wonder what it going through the minds of those that author these ideas???

by JB

20:20 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

Have these people landed from Mars - or maybe 1960's Soviet Union?

by

21:47 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

The council cannot force you to add safety features to a property to meet the terms of a licence **above** legal minimums - this was determined by a 2018 Appeals court decision on the matter ->
([2018] EWCA Civ 242) Brown vs Hyndburn Borough Council - https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2018/242.html

But they can force you to attend training -> [2020] UKUT 91 (LC) (Berg vs Burnley) -> https://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/LC/2020/91.html

If you disagree with the licence terms (and want to fight for your rights), you have 3 choices ->
a) Wait until the consultation has completed. They declare the conditions and then you take the council to Judicial Review (£30K cost minimum). (You need legal advice for this).
b) Apply for a licence. Wait for the licence to be sent and then take the council to the LTT asking the LTT to review the conditions of the licence (quote the appeals court decision as a lawful decision that the council is ignoring) - Note that there is a time limit to do this action. This costs around £300. The LTT may (or may not!) review the licence conditions and tell the council to correct (or completely re-write it). The council can appeal to the UT - but this gets progressively more expensive the higher the court.
c) Ignore the conditions requirement and then appeal to the UTT when the council finds out and tries to fine you between £5-30K.

I'm currently contemplating action b for my council where they are also trying to implement a load of cobblers in the licensing conditions...

by John Daley

21:50 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

I'm a supporter of licensing, particularly in London.

However this is a very poorly drafted proposal and deserves to be binned.

Just asking to be challenged.

by

21:52 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Si BB at 08/03/2021 - 21:47
The thing about option b is that for **every** licence the council produces, there is a 30 day window where the landlord can take the licence conditions to LTT for review - essentially this is a one way bet for the landlord - for £300, the worst that can happen is the LTT rejects the review. The best - complete re-write.
- If the LTT does review and change the conditions - all licences already issued need to be changed to reflect the new conditions...

by Ross Tulloch

22:12 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

I had been fearful of Lambeth, as the worst possible council that we deal with and concerned about the future for me if they did licensing for all HMO's I sold the two we had in advance of this. Happy I did. However it meant evicting 8 tenants who were happy there, and in one property, a single person lives there, and the other a couple. So it has meant that 5 fewer people are housed. Sold two in Southwark as the room sizes did not quite comply, evicting another 8 people. So sad. All because of licensing. A great way to reduce housing stock, and put even more pressure on those who need good accommodation at a reasonable price

by Ross Tulloch

22:14 PM, 8th March 2021, About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by John Daley at 08/03/2021 - 21:50
Why do you support licensing? Would be interested to know. Has not helped our tenants, rather the reverse

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