8:05 AM, 9th August 2021, About 3 months ago 17
We purchased a fully licensed HMO a couple of years ago and soon after purchasing we obtained our own HMO licence which permitted 5 rooms (1 person in each room). The property also comprised of communal Kitchen and Bathroom. Having rented the property just over 16 months and the fact we had a number of voids we decided to convert the property (only internal modifications) under Section 257 self-contained studios which offered facilities for both bathroom and kitchen. The number of studios converted from the whole building is 4. (previous communal bathroom and kitchen have been incorporated into studios and no longer exists individually)
Currently, 2 of them are vacant and 2 of them rented. The lady on basement studio has raised a complaint to Council raising concerns for health and safety and lack of ventilation. Accordingly, she invited the Enforcement officer at her studio without my knowledge. The enforcement officer contacted me on the phone with an opening gambit, YELLING WHAT AN EARTH I WAS PLAYING AT?
I initially did not know who was ringing me until he stopped shouting. He then went on to say, you had an HMO licence, and you changed the layout without our knowledge and smoke alarms are not interlinked with the rest of the studios and the kitchen should be at the back not by the entrance.
Naturally, I shouted back at him and asked him to calm down and stated only 2 of studios are rented and other 2 are vacant. He stated it did not matter and told me he would like to re visit next week and has arranged to meet me. I am rather confused for the following reasons:
-We have Licence for 5 people we have changed layout to bigger amenity space and reduced number of people than we were permitted to. In addition, as the number of people are less than 5, did we need to consult them before doing so?
-Section 257 allows conversions without Building Control input as long as we have adhered to HMO regulation which we have by installing Smoke Alarms, Heat Detectors, Emergency Lighting, Fire Doors, Gas Safe Installation of Boiler and Cylinder and Emergency Exit.
I have spoken to the tenant in question as to why she has complained, if she was not happy she should have had contacted me. She responded that having spoken to her colleagues she was advised to speak to Council, and she has exercised her rights by doing so and she wanted to ensure that everything was done correctly. She then asked if I had a correct Licence in place and I questioned her motive to which she responded it is just safety. I offered her an immediate early termination, and she flatly declined by saying that she is not going to make any decision until Council’s findings. I suspect she may be after a RRO? (Rent Repayment Order) she has been with us for 4 months only.
The Council has now served me with formal notice of entry and now by email requested me to provide them with current tenancy agreements as well as Floor plans.
I would appreciate good constructive advice. Thank you.
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