Council will not accept area of loft flat where roof slopes – Help?

by Sandy Down

8:52 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Council will not accept area of loft flat where roof slopes – Help?

Make Text Bigger
Council will not accept area of loft flat where roof slopes – Help?

I have an HMO for 8 people and did a loft extension which added a flat within the shared property. It was originally 2 bedrooms and open plan living/small kitchen, but building regs insisted I shouldn’t have a kitchen in the open area, so sacrificed one of the bedrooms and made it a kitchen, so the flat has one bedroom, kitchen, living/diner and bathroom, I have a couple moved in already.loft

However the council HMO dept came to inspect, and unknown to me in the bedroom (which is very large easily accommodate a double bed, desk etc) told me they will not count the areas where the roof slopes into the size of the bedroom, hence the area they counted would make it too small. So they said the room must not be occupied.

I am trying if I can reconfigure the design of the loft, change bedroom or move a partition wall if possible, but what would be my position with existing tenants? I still have 12 months of the AST to run. Can the council insist on me vacating the loft flat immediately? Or would they wait until I can rectify the room size?

If I was unable to rectify the space configuration, what are the consequences of trying to terminate the contract?

Sandy



Comments

Neil Patterson

8:54 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Sandy,

I am assuming the flat can't be made self contained with a separate entrance?

Sandy Down

9:11 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Neil, the flat has the same entrance front door there is only one staircase , its like any other loft extension, but top of the stairs leading to the loft has a door that separate the loft flat from the ground and first floor.

Originally we designed a second dormer to the side to ensure the bedroom is bigger, but that exceeded permitted development, and planning said this is a self contained flat (even though there is no way one can get to the flat without going through the house, and it shares same electric/gas/plumbing facilities) so we removed the second dormer to keep it within the permitted development, which meant two sloping ceilings in the bedroom, but quite a good double room area, and really spacious living / dining area, the couple who moved in are really happy with the flat.
Ideally I don't want self contained flat in the eyes of the council, because it means I will have to pay separate council bill, and it would be harder for me later if I wanted to converted back into a family home either to move back into or sell

I suggested to the inspector if I make the living/dining area a bedroom, and the bedroom to be an office... however building regs may not like this as this means the kitchen is directly off the bedroom...
I am really not sure how they approve bedsits and studios where one has one living/bedroom/kitchen space?

Irene Wong

10:27 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Not 100% sure of the configuration you have but if the sloping walls are a problem could you not 'fill-in'' the walls, with cupboard space? The windows would then have a tunnelled effect but assuming that there would still be plenty of room as you say, the double bed could be placed in the centre of the space.

Ian Narbeth

10:34 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sandy Down" at "13/04/2016 - 09:11":

Check with your Council but the normal standard is that any floor area which does not have a minimum floor to ceiling height of 1.5m will normally be discounted. This means that some of the sloping area can be counted but not all.

I suggest you get the room measured - by a surveyor if you don't have the skills yourself - and show on a plan the relevant area and check if this qualifies. Unless it is just a bit under the minimum standard (when the HMO officer may exercise some discretion) you have a problem. It's a good idea to keep on good terms with your HMO officer as otherwise they may enforce the rules very strictly and you could have other problems.

Sandy Down

10:46 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Thanks Irene, I can't fill the sloping roof, I have a built in open shelves/cupboard in it.

Ian, thank you, the 1.5 m height for usable space comes directly from Oxford guide <>
The room is almost double the 6.5m2 if you count all floor space, but if you discount both sloping roofs on both sides, then half of the room space is almost gone...

Oxford guide land lord guide says:
Notes
The measured space in any room must be‘usable space’. The room should be able
to accommodate the required amount of appropriate furniture easily and still
allow space for movement aboutthe room.
Any floorspace that has a ceiling height of lessthan 1.5m (5ft)shall be
disregarded for the purpose of measuring the total space in the room.
Yes I agree, always had a good relationship with the HMO officers and went out of my way to do things to keep them happy. I am hoping I can negotiate something with them to make the loft usable flat.

If my original plan with open plan living room/ kitchen was accepted by building regs officer, the second bedroom had full head height, but I had to put the kitchen in that room to please him... I just spent a lot of money in building and fitting the loft flat, it would be a total shame if I wasn't able to rent it

Colin Dartnell

11:14 AM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

If you haven't already done so, are you able to put a dormer window into the roof to extend the full height floor area? It doesn't help the situation with the existing tenants though.

Sandy Down

12:35 PM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Thanks Colin, I did think of this and sent an email to the loft conversion building company to esquire about such costs, but it may mean I will need planning permission, which means the council would insists in having the loft flat as a separate self contained flat (with its own council tax etc) but the disruption and the extra cost may put me off

I just had an email from the HMO, saying they increased number of tenants allowed by 2, but they put the following condition 'The second floor bedroom (off the second floor living room) must not be used for
sleeping purposes'
I sent a mail to them to see if we can swap the living room/bedroom usage, they didn't answer me yet, if that was possible (even though there is a door to the kitchen from the living room) then that would be good...

David Price

13:55 PM, 13th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sandy Down" at "13/04/2016 - 12:35":

I dare say if it was an ordinary house and the tenants were claiming benefits the shoe would be on the other foot and bedroom tax would apply.

Sandy Down

18:04 PM, 15th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Just an update, had another meeting with building regs and HMO officers, we talked about and exhausted lots of solutions ... at the end the building reg guy had this bright idea of just renaming the rooms in the loft flat .... it was acceptable by everyone and fortunately it means I don't need to spend any more money making further adjustments.

Alison King

0:15 AM, 16th April 2016
About 3 years ago

It's a pity you couldn't have the open plan kitchen and living area. I love flats that are designed like that. They seem to be allowed elsewhere.

1 2

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

Shelter's website says Section 21 does not cause homelessness

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