Can Edinburgh Council ban Wooden floors in my HMO?

by Readers Question

9:38 AM, 16th July 2013
About 7 years ago

Can Edinburgh Council ban Wooden floors in my HMO?

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Can Edinburgh Council ban Wooden floors in my HMO?

I’ve had a 5 double bedroom double upper Georgian property in Leith which I bought and renovated 12 years ago. I’ve rented it out room by room (mainly to overseas visitors) and had very few problems.

All the bedrooms have birchwood floors and the lounge and hallways are carpeted. The Scottish Office published a Guide for Landlords with HMO properties and suggested that due to noise disturbance to neighbours below from hardwood floors “it may be helpful to lay carpets rather than wooden flooring” due to the number of complaints from neighbours living below students.

Only Edinburgh and Dundee councils in Scotland have seen fit to enforce this on all HMO properties in their cities but recently have allowed exemptions if there is a proven track record of no complaints and a letter stating there’s no noise disturbance is signed by all the neighbours below over 16.

I wrote a letter to Edinburgh HMO dept last year stating that there have been no complaints about noise disturbance from the floors (only 2 bedrooms are affected) in the last 12 years. I don’t take students (apart from the occasional mature student), the floors are better for those with allergies (something which seems to be on the increase), and I also provide memory foam mattresses. The lounge area (carpeted) with kitchen off is more than big enough to cope with parties but my tenants being professionals in their 20s and 30s were more likely to have dinner parties instead.

I received a reply saying the policy was under review and I assume that during this time the exemption option was decided upon.

My problem now is a matter of principle that I’m willing to argue in Court. Why should I inconvenience my neighbour with paperwork as well as becoming indebted to him/them when there’s never been any complaint about the flooring?

The letter states that signing doesn’t negate any rights to complain in the future so to me this seems to be an added and unnecessary obstacle for the Landlord. Does Edinburgh council have the right to interpret a “Guide” as being a statutory requirement for HMO’s only? Especially as they’re in the minority in Scotland. This sets a precedent for “guilty until proven innocent” which I believe is the opposite approach in Law.

I’m not condoning noise disturbance not being addressed when and where it happens and I would be more than happy to address it at my property, if and when it happens. I did get a complaint from the neighbour about 8 years ago about the tenants (French at the time) having parties mid week and playing music loudly into the early hours of the morning with the windows wide open. I sorted it immediately and not by nailing the windows shut either!

Does anyone have any advice or am I just being “anti-authority”?

Paul wooden floors



Comments

Paul Maguire

13:33 PM, 16th July 2013
About 7 years ago

As a follow up [bit like talking to myself here lol] I've spoken to an Edinburgh Letting firm and have been advised that they've been told by the Council that without the neighbour's letter, the exemption won't be accepted. The danger here is that if the HMO licence has been held for a number of years but lapses I would have to apply for a new HMO application and follow the new set of rules, some of which have been relaxed for "time served" HMO properties. Looks like I'll have to get the letter signed and drop the principles.

david Brinsden

15:59 PM, 16th July 2013
About 7 years ago

It's not unusual for it to be a condition of building regs & the lease of the flat that the floors except bathrooms are carpeted.
I am the freeholder of a block of flats & the only complaints I get are because one of the leaseholders installed laminate flooring without permission, as it was part of the sound insulation calculations that the floors are carpeted.

Scottish Association of Landlords

19:24 PM, 29th July 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi there

We've been lobbying the City of Edinburgh Council on behalf of members for well over a year on this matter ever since the "Proactive Impact Noise Standard" was brought in.

We pushed for this to be reconsidered. The result so far (exemption conditions), is a welcome move in the right direction and the Council has to be commended for listening). Unfortunately, the conditions are still viewed as unworkable in practice, for a variety of reasons. (see below)

Our position is that if there have not been any noise complaints recorded, it is reasonable to assume that there is not a noise issue for the neighbours. After all, the Council record neighbour complaints anyway for HMOs, so they have the data for the minority where noise problems exist. We do support noise reduction measures in properties where significant noise problems have been recorded. Some members have reported their tenants have had noise issues from above which do require action to be take, as they would in any other tenure.

We will continue to lobby and have requested meetings with the relevant elected councillors and council officials. We do ask the OP to consider joining the Scottish Association of Landlords as together we have a bigger voice and can work together towards curbing legislative excesses such as these. There's a news item on our website which covers this and if the OP gets in touch and joins SAL, we can update him on the work we're doing on this matter.

We're currently gathering data on this from members, many of which have already complied - ie "done the right thing" and carpeted, only to know find out they could have gained exemption and that's another issue too.

Likely problems with exemption conditions:

What about those whose neighbours change frequently? or are short term holiday lets? Unable or unwilling to write a letter for no reason related to noise? Have residents about to move out or move in and with no reason to help the landlord above. There are lots of questions around this and it's the job of SAL on behalf of members to take the views of our members to the Council on this matter.


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