Do Councils and Housing Associations run HMOs? If not, why not?

by Readers Question

15:54 PM, 14th June 2017
About 2 years ago

Do Councils and Housing Associations run HMOs? If not, why not?

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Do Councils and Housing Associations run HMOs? If not, why not?

This is a query best suited for members of this site who understand the state housing sector better than I.

Do councils or housing associations operate HMOs?

I’ve never heard of one, but perhaps there are a few scattered around. If the answer is no, why don’t they? Is there some legal restriction, or is it just prejudice, based on a group think belief amongst their staff that the minimum subsidised accommodation that the State ought to provide for a single person is a one-bedroom flat?

I’ve been to a couple of conferences on Homelessness and the PRS where most of the public sector staff there had such an attitude, except for one chap, I think from Earling BC, who complained about the number of homeless people clogging up their hostels and refusing to move when offered a room in a private HMO, because they were holding out for a subsidised flat from the council.

It just seems odd that, given a single person under the age of 35 can only claim housing benefit for a single room, the only people providing such accommodation seem to be private HMO landlords.

I’m a small-scale developer as well as a landlord, and I’ve never heard of new-build social housing being specified to work as HMOs either.

Tony



Comments

James Barnes

16:57 PM, 14th June 2017
About 2 years ago

This is a good question and I'm not entirely sure of the answer, to me it would seem that Local Authorities or Housing Associations providing single rooms in shared houses would make sense, more so than renting rooms in hostels as you've mentioned.

I think part of the answer may however lie in the definition of HMOs within Housing Act 2004. Schedule 14 of the Act lists all the buildings (or parts) that for the purpose of the Act shall not be considered HMOs. The list is too long to include here but does include buildings owned or managed by both Local Authorities and Housing Associations.

So with that in mind it may be that there are plenty of HMOs managed by LAs and HAs, they just don't define them as that.

Yvette Newbury

8:44 AM, 15th June 2017
About 2 years ago

Social housing and housing associations are EXEMPT from the HMO legislation and many other areas that affect HMO landlords, including fire safety to a certain extent.

Robert Mellors

8:59 AM, 15th June 2017
About 2 years ago

Hi Tony

I run a housing association and provide HMOs.

I set up and currently run a housing association (defined as a "not for profit" housing management company, as per Housing Association Act 1985). Most "housing associations" are also registered as social housing providers, in which case they generally receive grants and subsidies from central and local government in order to provide lower rents. Some "housing associations" may also be registered charities, in which case they also have access to a huge range of charitable grants, (e.g. lottery fund), and are also allowed to carry out fundraising activities (e.g. solicit donations, and operate charity shops). My housing association does not (and can not) receive government grants or charity funding, so it relies on receipt of rents to cover it's full operating costs.

We provide a number of HMO properties for use by single clients referred to us by homelessness organisations. However, these can be very problematic tenants to manage so we also provide a Support Worker to our residents, and this puts us into the category of providing "supported accommodation" (which also falls into the definition of a homeless hostel). Although our organisational structure is very different to most "housing associations", I am aware of plenty of other housing associations (and charities) that provide supported HMO accommodation, though these are normally much larger HMOs that are more instantly recognisable as hostels.

Michael Bond

10:11 AM, 15th June 2017
About 2 years ago

The local councils and "conventional" housing associations round here (south east Dorset) don't seem to provide HMO accommodation, by which I mean bedsits, probably for the sort of reasons described by Tony; although the Bournemouth Churches Housing Association which is a charity (like Robert Mellor's?) provides bedsits, hostels, and various sorts of transitional accommodation for recovering addicts, street sleepers etc. Dare I suggest that for many local government officials it is far more fun to persecute PRS landlords for their attempts to meet this need, than to take on the difficulties and problems of actually doing something about it?
I didn't know that local authorities were exempt from so much HMO and other legislation. I wonder what other legislation they are from and what is simply not enforced for them? I hope it is not too early and distasteful to wonder in print whether this may have been a contributing factor in the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Survivor accounts tell of darkness over the stairs. Where was the emergency lighting with battery back up?

Robert Mellors

10:29 AM, 15th June 2017
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Michael Bond" at "15/06/2017 - 10:11":

That is so spot on Michael (except my business is not a registered charity, it is simply a not for profit company limited by guarantee, i.e. a voluntary organisation). Councils, "conventional" housing associations, and registered charities, are exempt from lots of regulations, even the Protection from Eviction Act which as we all know makes it very difficult and costly for private landlords to evict rogue tenants. Some of the exemptions also apply to housing provided by other "public bodies", for example, the HMO regulations (which often deal with fire safety, among other issues) does not apply to HMOs provided by the police, NHS, or fire and rescue services!

matchmade

17:03 PM, 19th June 2017
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "15/06/2017 - 08:59":

Thanks Robert for your reply. As you put out, you are really in the business of providing supported accommodation, in the form of hostels for people who have been homeless or perhaps experience difficulty living on their own independently. My question was more about conventional flats and houses that just happen to have more than two unrelated persons living in them, so are defined as HMOs (and licensed and regulated and often viewed as little better than slum housing), even though there is usually very little that distinguishes their living environment from a family with adult children or a couple sharing a flat and taking a lodger.

I've been to conferences where local authorities are looking to house young single people and homeless people living in hostels and "move them on" into the PRS. It just seems bizarre to me that councils and the large social housing associations don't view the accommodation of single young people on very low incomes as in any way their responsibility or a challenge for them, or a profitable source of revenue in the "80% of market rate" new-build rental houses they are given in S106 Agreements. I studied the newspapers' accounts of whom was living in Grenfell Tower, for example, and though there was a young Italian couple, single mothers with children, some young Syrian brothers, older single people, and small multi-generational families, I could see no flats occupied by two, three or four unrelated single people, either working on low wages or on benefits. But I bet there are a good number of over-occupied private HMOs in the area or in neighbouring boroughs (including the notorious beds in sheds), all apparently without a jot of competition from the public housing sector, or any intention too either, despite all the complaints about poor standards in the PRS. There just seems to be a determination to hammer every private HMO landlord, no matter how high-quality and law-abiding, with licensing costs, Article 4 Directions and all the other weapons in local authorities' armoury, with no thought for the consequences in terms of how landlords will respond as regards the supply of such housing.


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