Bristol City Council – The lights are on but no one’s home!

by Readers Question

10:56 AM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

Bristol City Council – The lights are on but no one’s home!

Make Text Bigger
Bristol City Council – The lights are on but no one’s home!

I have just received an email from Bristol City Council regarding my recent license application for one of my HMOs and I also just paid them £1050.00 for the pleasure.

I list here the accompanying 37 conditions (yes really 37 of them) I have to follow. I really think whoever wrote these conditions has no experience of actually being a landlord.

For sure I’m putting up rents if I have to follow all these conditions. At first glance I can see all sorts of problems with at least 10 of them.

West of England – Bristol City Council’s
Houses in Multiple Occupation – Licence Conditions
Property (HMO): XX XXXX Road, Southville, Bristol, BS3 XXX
The licence holder and/or manager:

1. Must, if gas is supplied to the house, produce to the Council, annually, for their inspection a satisfactory gas safety certificate obtained in respect of the house within the last 12 months.
2. Must keep electrical appliances and furniture made available in the house in a safe condition and must supply to the Council, on demand a written declaration verifying the safety of the appliances and furniture.
3. Must supply to the occupiers of the house a written statement of the terms on which they occupy it.
4. Must request a reference for each new person wishing to occupy the house. The reference request should include questions about anti-social behaviour, acting in a non-tenant like manner and any problems in respect of non-payment of rent. References must be retained for a minimum of 6 months from the issuing of the licence and must supply to the Council on demand.
5. Must provide, on request from other landlords an honest, factual and accurate written reference relating to existing or past occupiers.
6. Must issue new tenants/occupiers with a tenancy/written agreement that include clauses that will allow the licence holder to take reasonable steps to tackle anti-social behaviour.
7. Must have facilities, such as a telephone number, email address or postal address, to receive and respond to initial complaints about the behaviour of tenants or their visitors.
8. Must take all reasonable steps to deal with anti-social behaviour perpetrated by occupiers and/or visitors to the property.
9. Must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the property is not used for illegal or immoral purposes.
10. Must complete the West of England Landlord Development Programme or otherwise have evidence of successfully completing equivalent training by a recognised landlord association on demand.
11. Must ensure that the property is inspected on a regular basis to assess if there is evidence of anti-social behaviour ; this should be at least quarterly, but more frequently if anti-social behaviour has been established.
12. Must take all reasonable steps to keep the exterior of the property free from graffiti and fly posters.
13. Must ensure that tenants have 24hrs direct access to all toilet, personal washing and cooking facilities and equipment.
14. Must ensure that there is no obligate sharing of bedrooms.
15. Must supply to the Council on demand the names of all occupants.
16. Must ensure that the West of England Code of Good Management Practice is to be complied with and a copy is to be permanently displayed so as to be visible to all tenants.
17. Must ensure any person involved in, or becoming involved in the management of the property after the licence date must be a fit and proper person and must supply the Council on demand with a completed declaration in respect of a fit and proper person’ form for each person.
18. Must notify the Council in writing of any change to the name, address or any other contact details (including email address) of the licence holder, manager or any other person involved in the management of the property, within 14 days of that change.
19. Must comply with the Bristol City Council ‘Room Size & Amenity Standards for Licensable HMOs’ and ‘Fire Safety Standards for Licensable HMOs’ documents. These documents may be updated during the term of the licence and it is the responsibility of the licence holder and/or manager to ensure that they are aware of, and are complying with the latest versions. The latest versions of these documents can be found at www.bristol.gov.uk/hmo.
20. Must ensure that the property is managed in such a way that it is maintained in good repair. Facilities and equipment must be kept in a safe condition and good working order. Worn or dangerous furniture or fittings must be replaced.
21. Must supply to the Council, where applicable, a current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) on demand.
22. Must comply with the minimum level of energy efficiency for privately rented property required under The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property)(England and Wales) Regulations 2015. From April 2018, landlords of privately rented property in England or Wales must ensure that their properties reach at least an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E before granting a new tenancy to new or existing tenants. From 1 April 2020 these requirements will then apply to all private rented properties, all subject to any exemptions from this regulations.
23. Must meet current statutory requirements for electrical installation and supply to the Council, on demand a current (less than 5 years old) electrical installation condition report. Any category 1 or 2 defects in a report must be rectified. On the expiry of a report, a new report must be obtained and supplied to the Council within 2 months of the previous report’s expiry date.
24. Must, where there is an existing fire alarm system, supply to the Council on demand a satisfactory certificate of inspection and testing as required under BS 5839-6: 2013.
25. Must ensure that a smoke alarm is installed on each storey of the house on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation and to keep any such alarm in proper working order.
26. Where there is a new tenancy these alarms must be checked on the day the tenancy begins and supply on demand a declaration of the condition and positioning of any such alarms.
27. Must ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room (includes a hall or landing) in the property which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation (includes bathroom or lavatory) and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance, and to keep any such alarm in proper working order. The alarms must be checked on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy and supply on demand a declaration of the condition and positioning of any such alarms.
Note – Solid fuel includes coal, wood, etc. A non-functioning, purely decorative fireplace would not constitute a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
28. Must provide to the Council, on demand a declaration that the lighting system is in proper working order. Emergency lighting to be maintained in accordance with the relevant British Standard (BS5266: Part 1: 2005).
29. Must, where the LACoRS “Housing – Fire Safety, Guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing” has been used to determine fire precautions, review the precautions annually or whenever there are alterations to the property or its contents or at changes of tenancy; to ensure the fire precautions are appropriate to the risk, written evidence of any review to be supplied on demand
30. Must provide written details of fire evacuation procedures to tenants/occupiers. Ensure that all tenants/occupiers are aware of fire and fault indications of the fire alarm system and are adequately familiar with controls (e.g. resetting). They must also be made aware of measures to avoid false alarms. These details must be supplied on demand.
31. Must, where food is provided, ensure food handlers have appropriate food safety training.
32. Must ensure that the layout of the property, including any numbering of rooms is not altered without first gaining written permission from the Council. Requests to alter the layout should be made in writing to Licensing Team, Private Housing, Bristol City Council and include a full description of the proposed changes.
33. Must ensure that the property is occupied in accordance with, and by no more than the number of persons and households specified in the licence.
34. Must, if the occupation of the property is in excess of the maximum permitted number, inform the Licensing Team, Private Housing, Bristol City Council in writing within 28 days of the over occupation occurring.
35. Must, if any proposed changes to the mode of occupation be submitted to the Licensing Team, Private Housing, Bristol City Council to determine if any changes to the conditions and the permitted number are needed.
36. Must provide suitable facilities for the storage and disposal of refuse and recycling in accordance with the Council’s waste and recycling collection requirements.
37. Must ensure that their name, address, any telephone contact number or email address are made available to each household and such details are clearly displayed in a prominent position in the property.

Bristol Landlord



Comments

Mick Roberts

12:00 PM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

Yes,
We had the same in Nottingham with normal houses Selective Licensing. I've forgot now, but something like 39 conditions & each condition has sub menu's A to G, so something like 273 rules to abide by.
And yes, they have no clue about being a Landlord, or more importantly what it requires to rent out houses.
The main man at the time said 'Well New builds have got thumbturns' To which I said Bingo, we ain't got New builds. And New builds cost more money.
He then said What u get on with your tenants? He was flummoxed that a landlord got on with his tenants & thought all tenants hated all Landlords.
One of their conditions, we have not suddenly got to leave our phone on 24 hours a day, IT MUST ANSWER BY US!
No wonder Nottingham homeless has shot up since Licensing was introduced.
Most of Nottingham's rents went up or sold.

Jan

12:08 PM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

Just finishing a renovation of a flat I plan to let as a HMO next year, there are already 2 other flats in the building that are up and running HMOs, plus mine and another currently owner occupied - I've lived there several years and haven't had any problems with the other occupants. I'm not against these regs to be honest, unless I've missed something, there's nothing particularly onerous there and we - FMC - have ensured the house is compliant with the requirements (fire alarm systems etc) as part of keeping the communal areas of the building compliant, and we are working towards other things highlighted on the fire safety inspection like replacing oil based paint with a water based product in the communal areas (it'll be on the list for the planned refurb of that area). This does highlight the sort of issue that will crop up in reality though, how much private owner occupiers should have to contribute towards 'communal' costs that might be incurred primarily for the purpose of the HMO licence, including buildings insurance. BTW, we also have a social media group for all the occupants/owners so problems can be raised and dealt with quickly and so far it's all worked really well and I can recommend trying it. Perhaps we've just been lucky. Must say I think the licence is very expensive.

colette

13:29 PM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

Interesting - you should ask them to confirm that they or their outsourced providers (social housing landlords or care agencies and sometimes private landlords) do all the same within their community living houses. Some councils have not yet realised that community living comes under their HMO rules. To clarify community living consists of 2 or more adults, with learning difficulties, sharing a house, having a tenancy for their room and sharing areas, ie kitchen, loos, lounge, halls. They may or may not have 24hr support who also live in (either employed by the council directly or via an agency) who have their own bedroom. They should also have all the safety requirements, gas cert, elec, energy, fire blankets etc etc etc. Surprisingly one council has recently realised none of these types of houses have any of the above and are in urgent discussions with the landlords because the council have a duty of care to the vulnerable clients they placed there.

Rob Crawford

13:31 PM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

Most HMO licensing schemes will include a similar list of requirements. In most cases for good/experienced landlords, the list is a bit of an insult. Let us know how you feel when you receive the letter that gives you the licence but then goes onto say you may not be inspected for another four years! They told me they had "no resource problems"!

terry sullivan

13:43 PM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

most are ultra vires? need legal opinion?

Rod

23:22 PM, 9th October 2019
About A week ago

Our top councillor earns £172000pa with a nice big fat pension to follow, the money has got to come from somewhere the poor thing!

Bristol Landlord

21:08 PM, 10th October 2019
About A week ago

When I first heard the news of the licensing I contacted BCC to get further information and they sent me a detailed 3 page PDF with the below information on what they are trying to achieve.;

1, Benefits for Private Landlords.
The compliant landlords will be rewarded for responsible letting practices with reduced fees.
Their reputation will be enhanced because their properties are licensed but poor landlords will be forced to improve standards of their properties.
Better management and tenancy agreements will enable landlords to have more control over the property and will receive support to deal with tenants who commit ASB.
Should lead to more sustainable tenancies.
2, Benefits to Tenants.
Peace of mind that the property you live in has been inspected and is safe.
Landlords will have to undertake repairs to bring property up to standard and may be penalized if he/she doesn’t to the work when we request it.
Landlords may decide to let more family units rather than HMOs which may make the area more stable.
Standards include limits on the number of permitted occupants per property so will reduce the likelihood of cramped and overcrowded accommodation.
Advice and guidance will be available for tenants.
Reporting hotline to report anonymously properties that let but are not licensed which will investigate further.
3, Benefits to the Community
No cost to the tax payer – it is self funding.
Increase in numbers of properties meeting standards and better management practices which should help decrease ASB.
Reduce incidence of overcrowded properties and the ASB most associated with these properties eg noise and rubbish.
Register of landlords/managers made publicly available so neighbours can report disrepair or ASB more easily and police will be able to get details of the owner if ASB is reported to them.

Bristol Landlord

21:12 PM, 10th October 2019
About A week ago

To clarify my thoughts on the Additional Licensing required by Bristol City Council.
I am completely fine to comply with the safety requirement such as Gas Safety Certificate, EPC, fire alarm, smoke alarm, CO alarm, emergency lighting, fire evacuation plan etc but where it gets difficult is the subject of Anti Social Behaviour conditions 4, 6, 8, 9 and 11.
How am I expected to deal with anti social behaviour by a tenant or visitor except to evict that person?
My personal power to do anything about this is very limited by law and may disapear completely with the end of S21 evictions.
I responded to BCC and the previous information about three types of expected benefits with an email as below,
Dear xxx,
Does BCC realise the Landlord has NO CONTROL over the behaviour of a tenant and often is as much a victim as the neighbours? When we hand over the keys to a very valuable property we have just lost legal control of that property for months into the future, anything can happen.
The term Rogue Landlord is often bandied about but hardly anyone in the mainstream media talks about the Tenant from Hell.
The above tenant will require expensive and time consuming court action to evict, what support will BCC give to Landlord with that situation?
I can predict the result of new legislation, licensing fees and prohibition of S21 will lead to,
1. More Landlords exiting the Private Rental Sector.
2. A further shortage of rental properties available in the PRS.
3. For Landlords not baling out, rents will be going up as fast as possible to compensate for the higher costs and risks of the PRS.
4. No Landlord in his right mind will be taking on DSS tenants as the risk will be even higher than already for a normal working tenant.
Often the LA advises non rent paying and/or anti social behaving tenants they will not rehouse them until the last moment and they have been actually evicted. The introduction of Universal Credit has lead to many tenants being starved of funds to pay the rent. This policy just increases the cost and misery for both neighbours and Landlords alike and doesnt really do the tenant any favours in the long run.
BCC should be preparing for a further shortage of properties to rent in the PRS and a much higher demand for social housing, plus a lot more homeless people on the streets than you already have, a bad situation is about to get much worse.
Sorry to say the above but I do feel these are the potential effects of various LA and Government "initiatives" on the PRS and especially in Bristol as it is already an expensive city to live.
Regards,

BCC replied, Dear XXX
Thank you for your email. XX has passed this to me to respond.
This scheme unlike Stapleton Road has been approved under a different set of criteria and the focus is not on ASB but on poor housing conditions and poor management of HMOs. For your information the scheme in Stapleton Road was very well received by people in the community and outcomes were better than we had expected.
Eastville and St George is a different scheme again as is not restricted to HMOS but the criteria here was also poor housing conditions and poor management.
The fees are calculated based on the work involved in delivering the scheme and has been fully checked by both Legal and Financial services team to ensure they meet legal requirements. The scheme cannot make a profit and all income can only be used on delivering the scheme that was designated.
Your comments on ASB and S21 etc. have been noted and unfortunately some of these things are outside our control. We do appreciate that it is hard managing some tenants and we do support landlords when we come across these as part of our intervention in licensing but we do expect landlords to handle some of the lesser ASB issues like rubbish and noise complaints through their management of the property.

Regards
xxx

Bristol Landlord

21:35 PM, 10th October 2019
About A week ago

Whats interesting is that under Benefits to Landlords they say landlords "will receive support to deal with tenants who commit ASB."
Then in the email to me from a BCC employee they say "Your comments on ASB and S21 etc. have been noted and unfortunately some of these things are outside our control. "
Therefore BCC are selling the licensing as tackling ASB but then say in the above email "This scheme unlike Stapleton Road has been approved under a different set of criteria and the focus is not on ASB but on poor housing conditions and poor management of HMOs" and "some things are out of our control".
So exactly what support is BCC offering to a landlord who has a tenant committing ASB?
I would say not very much but we will make sure your house is nicely decorated and we get our money for the once in five years inspection.
Plus on top of that they have encouraged Bristol landlords to exit the market, this has helped create a shortage of housing in the Bristol PRS and also is leading to Landlords still operating to massively increase the rents of the houses they still have due to much increased work, expense and risks of operating a licensed HMO within the City of Bristol.
So one group of people, the neigbours of an HMO, benefit from reduced incidents of ASB - good- but another group, prospective tenants, can expect a shortage of houses to rent and drastically increasing rents (bad for them).
This why I wonder if with BCC the lights are on but no one's home.

Mick Roberts

15:06 PM, 11th October 2019
About 7 days ago

Our experience in Nottingham, the good landlords reputation didn't need to be enhanced by Accreditation & License, as had no problem & a queue of tenants. It was the bad Landlords who needed the accreditation to enhance their reputation.
Do a Freedom of Info request on BCC's homeless bill now & then do it in a year & say Told u so.

1 2 3

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

Selling BTL properties - open letter to PM

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More