How could I convert my property so it is no longer an HMO?

by Readers Question

13:00 PM, 8th September 2014
About 4 years ago

How could I convert my property so it is no longer an HMO?

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How could I convert my property so it is no longer an HMO?

Sometime ago I purchased a large property in Portsmouth. I have converted the property so it has 6 bedrooms but it behaves largely like two flats. 3 bedrooms, a lounge, bathroom, toilet and kitchen are on the ground floor.

The ground floor has its own front and rear access as well as a door to the first floor hallway. On the first floor there are three further bedrooms, a bathroom, toilet and kitchen with access to a loft room. I have a brother and sister on the ground floor and a friend of theirs is living in the spare room down there.

On the first floor I have a couple who are friends of mine. I am currently living in my loft room that has ensuite so I don’t disturb others in the house. The loft room isn’t an ‘official’ room. I think I have wondered into HMO territory and could really use some advice about how best to avoid it!

I don’t wish to get a licence and would prefer to use the property differently if this was the only way to avoid it. Any solutions would be hugely appreciated, I need the best financially viable way of letting rooms with minimal redtape!

Thank you so much,

BaggyHMO



Comments

Mrs Loon

14:39 PM, 8th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Sounds like an HMO to me.

Ian Narbeth

17:40 PM, 8th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Pam Van Loon" at "08/09/2014 - 14:39":

And as there are more than two storeys and five households it appears to be a licensable HMO. Have you got fire doors, smoke alarms etc? Baggy, I suggest you get professional advice PDQ before you "wander" into even more problems.

Mike Tighe

21:50 PM, 8th September 2014
About 4 years ago

I agree that you are currently managing an HMO which requires a license.

Does the layout lend itself to forming separate entrances to the ground floor and the 2 upper floors (they could share a common hallway) ? Or could you block the ground floor flat's access to the main hallway so the back door becomes their main entrance ? If you could separate the ground floor into a self contained flat then I reckon that it would still be an HMO (3 or more people forming 2 or more households) but would not need to be licensed.
Then in the upstairs flat, as long as you live there and share facilities with the couple then they can be your lodgers and it won't be an HMO at all as you can have up to 2 lodgers before it becomes one.
To do this properly I think you would need a surveyor or architectuiral technician to draw plans and go through local building control, who will require certain standards to be maintained during the conversion which will include some degree of fire separation, mains smoke alarms, fire doors etc... But many people on here will tell you that building control seem to be less stringent and more flexible than the council officers who issue HMO licenses ! You would have 2 lots of council tax to pay.
I have a feeling that you might get away with keeping one heating system altho' I may be wrong.

It has occurred to me though that from your description of the property you have virtually already converted it to 2 self contained flats (kitchen and bath room in each unit etc...) so if you were to just form 2 separate entrances it would be a section 257 HMO. These are buildings converted into self contained flats which do not meet (as a minimum) the standards of the 1991 building regs (for whatever reason I guess, not just buildings converted before 1991). If this is the case there is a specific set of HMO requirements including having to have a Fire Risk assessment done (and carry out any work recommended by it) but no license would be necessary.
Here is a good description of section 257 HMO's:
https://www.tmbc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/13053/Landlords_Guide_to_the_Management_of_Section_257_HMOs.pdf
If you read it carefully you will see that some of it doesn't apply to your situation and most of the requirements are common sense or what you should be doing anyway (gas and electrical testing for instance). Your fire risk assessment would probably require fire doors and mains` smoke alarms. This does all assume that you do have 2 really self contained flats each with their own entrance door (although they can share a common entrance).
If you did it this way you might however be breaching planning and building regulations. If you could justifiably claim that for more than 4 years it has been 2 separate flats maybe you'd be OK as after this time I believe no one can insist on you changing it back.

Otherwise I fear you need to somehow reduce your occupancy down to 4 persons in total.

Good luck. Hopefully others might confirm what I have written or correct me and come up other ideas.
Mike

Baggy Robbins

15:00 PM, 14th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Thank you so much for the feedback all, especially Mike for such a thorough response. I think what you have said is right and I need to lose one lodger from the ground floor. The two floors both have their own entrance, the ground floor uses the front door and first floor uses the side entrance. The property was originally two separate units, so I think after what has been said I should return it to two separate spaces via planning application. Both units also have their own gas/electric meter so it would certainly appear to be a 257 HMO. I will read the link carefully and see what I need to do. Thanks a lot Mike, really appreciate your thoughts, Baggy

Allan Wadsworth

8:59 AM, 15th September 2014
About 4 years ago

I'm also in Pompey so can I suggest. 1) Talk to the local http://www.PDPLA.org members who meet every 2nd Monday of the month at the Queens Hotel as they are all in the same ponds as you. 2) Maybe talk to TPExperts.org as they can advise on town planning options. 3) Talk to someone else about totally running it for you (not a letting agency) and paying you a fixed amount each month.

Mike Tighe

10:25 AM, 15th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "allan wadsworth" at "15/09/2014 - 08:59":

Yes its great idea to meet up with others possibly in the same situation as suggested by Allan.
Just to be clear though Baggy, there is a clear difference between something which is an HMO and something which has to be a licensed HMO. If you separate into 2 flats, your downstairs flat would be an HMO but doesn't need to be licensed. So no need to get rid of the 3rd person - just read up on the requirements of an HMO which are probably not too onerous here and if you've been through building control all the safety stuff will have been cleared anyway. Also if you've been through building control to divide back to 2 flats you won't need to worry about the Section 257 stuff as your conversion will be post 1991.
Also it is worth clarifying that just because one flat is an HMO doesn't mean the rest of the house is (assuming they are self contained flats).
In your current arrangement where the 2 flats are joined up and are not self contained you need to get rid of 2 people so that you have a total of 4 adults. A licensed HMO is 5 or more people on 3 or more floors so you need to be 4 people (including you) to avoid licensing requirement. Alternatively lose one person so you occupy that room and block off the attic then you'd be 5 people on 2 floors which is still an HMO but not licensable. The trouble with being licensed is that the officers who police it seem to apply much stricter standards than an ordinary UN -licensed HMO would require.
Also, a note of caution - you are unlikely to meet any resistance in the planning dept for dividing back to 2 flats, but the building control may be more difficult. They would be applying current building regs which will be more stringent than those applied when the house was previously divided so be prepared for new ceilings, fire doors etc...
For your reading up, this West of England Housing website seems to gives a clear outline of the main responsibilities of a manager of an HMO, and also has links to the 2006 and 2007 legislation on the Gov website where you can read through the act itself to be sure you understand the detail (assuming you have no life !).
http://www.privatehousinginformation.co.uk/site/255.asp

By the way, did you get permission to convert the house back to one unit ? if not what is to stop you just putting it back to how it was originally ? if you are paying one lot of Council tax I guess the council already has a record of it being one house though ?
Have I confused you ? hope not !
Mike

Allan Wadsworth

14:03 PM, 15th September 2014
About 4 years ago

I don't personally run HMO's in Pompey but my son and several friends do, so apologies if have this wrong.. I don't think Pompey are using the 3 floor ruling for HMO's at all and I believe its 3 or more unrelated people that they are using for the licencing rules. I do apologies if I am wrong but that's what I thought the licencing rules were using - as well as no more than 10% in 100 yards if in P01 2 and 4. - again APOLOGIES IF I AM WRONG. Allan

Ian Narbeth

15:05 PM, 15th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "allan wadsworth" at "15/09/2014 - 14:03":

Googling "Portsmouth HMOs" produces this as the first document: https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/ext/housing-and-council-tax/housing/shared-houses---mandatory-licensing-of-houses-in-multiple-occupation.aspx

It says on page 1:
"What is a house in multiple occupation?
A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property which is occupied by three or more people forming two or more households, where facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms are normally shared. It includes bedsits, shared houses (students and professionals) and some self-contained flats.

Properties of three or more floors, with five or more tenants belonging to two or more households require a Mandatory Licence under the Housing Act 2004."

Allan, Portsmouth Council apply the normal rules. Sorry to be terse but 30 seconds research would have put you on the right track!

Baggy Robbins

13:32 PM, 17th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Mike, Allan and Ian, thank you so much for your advice, it is all very useful. I shall definitely attend the meeting in Queens Hotel, that sounds like a great idea.

Ian - thank you for your 'no-nonsense' approach, I will take heed of the policies highlighted in the linked document.

Allan - really appreciate your thoughts, the meeting sounds like an excellent place to thrash this out in full and I look forward to meeting the others.

Mike - massive thanks for your thorough feedback, I will look at the links you have suggested and carefully consider your points. I converted the property into one unit through planning in order not to pay two sets of council tax for a house only I was living in. I also had to seek change of use (to residential) as the ground floor unit had previously been commercial. The door that joins the upstairs to the downstairs is not a necessary access route for either flat (downstairs/upstairs both still have a front and back door if I brick it up). In order to keep this as simple as possible I think I will submit a planning application for two flats and lose the extra lodger in the bottom flat. The brother and sister on the ground floor then remain as one household in one flat. In the first floor flat the boyfriend and girlfriend can remain and I can use the loft room for me. As I understand it this would make the ground floor flat a straight forward rent, and I would then be sharing my flat with two lodgers in the first floor flat. Phew! I may consider the ground floor flat HMO option in future, once I have sorted out the planning application. It would be great to show you floor plans Mike but I don't want to take advantage of your generosity. Really impressed by this service and the advice I have been offered. Thanks loads.


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