What is the difference between an HMO and a Self Contained Flat?

by Readers Question

12:31 PM, 11th December 2017
About 10 months ago

What is the difference between an HMO and a Self Contained Flat?

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What is the difference between an HMO and a Self Contained Flat?

I run a HMO which has recently been visited by an enforcement officer from the London borough after a failed application for a C3 to C4 change of use (based on the fact that the council states Article 4 does not apply to my property on their website.. but apparently it does). I am now applying for a LDC which I should have done in the first place in hindsight and I hope all will be well with that.

Now, onto my question.

Should the LDC be successful and I attain the C4, the enforcement officer stated that the property seemed to him to be self-contained flats and will need to be changed into a C4 (based on 5 of the 6 rooms). The officer stated the following:

– “Cooking Facilities” being present in most of the rooms. In this case, small installed twin hobs. In addition to the main communal kitchen.

– All utilities to be on one supply. I.e. No more than 1 meter per supply for Electric, Gas and Water.

– All drainage and units in the “kitchen” area of the rooms to be removed and replaced with wardrobes and drawers etc.

My problem with this is the following:

– The hobs constitute cooking facilities which are a “part” of what constitutes a kitchen. However, this is a contentious issue and I will happily take these out to satisfy the council on this point as it doesn’t have a huge impact, despite my reservations. This fulfills this requirement.

– The utility issue is problematic for me as although the gas and water are on one supply paid for by me, the electricity is split between the 6 rooms and a landlord supply for communal areas. This helps keep the billing fair as otherwise tenants will abuse this especially in winter as all heaters are electric. It also helps for safety reasons as there is a 3 phase supply which is partitioned between all rooms rather than one big supply which could fail, thereby leaving the entire property without power. I also do not see any statute or policy which states that this is the case despite the officer stating so.

– The final point is what constitutes a kitchen. After I take out the “Cooking Facilities” which I have seen thrown around as the defining factor between HMOs and Self-Contained flats, there ceases to be a “kitchen”. If there is no kitchen in the room, then it can stay in its current form. Currently, 5 of the 6 rooms have a worktop, sink, and freestanding units you would find in rooms anyway such as a fridge (and a washing machine). The worktop doubles up as a desk and there are units which tenants use for storage. The cooker and hobs will only be in the main kitchen.

I would love to hear from anyone with any information on this and whether it would be worth disputing the officer’s view as I don’t currently believe they are correct, especially in the absence of any policy wordings or proof that this is the case.

Thank you in advance.

Ved



Comments

St. Jims

13:02 PM, 11th December 2017
About 10 months ago

I feel your pain but ... don't fight the Fed, as they say on Wall Street.

I'll guess that the Council does not need to show any legal precedent for its decision. It probably doesn't even have to follow its own stated policies. Most of its big decisions concerning your property will be at the discretion of the visiting officer - who has already given you his/her opinion. You have little chance of changing their mind.

Your council has given you some instructions that have left you feeling a bit irked. If you attempt to instruct them back, they might end up just as irked as you are now, and you might end up with less goodwill than you're starting with.

All of the above comes from my experience of dealing with Councils as an HMO landlord.

FYI my Council has told me that it is trying to get away from cookers in rooms, partly because no-one wants to wake up in a bedroom that smells of last night's salmon stir-fry, and partly because the Council claims that it sees fewer social/mental problems among tenants in rooms with shared facilities. I don't know if the Council is right to say any of that, but, regardless, the Council has its reasons.

michaelwgroves

22:01 PM, 11th December 2017
About 10 months ago

I’m not aware there is any clear details on when a room becomes self contained. The details listed are it must have a private kitchen and bathroom. But what constitutes a kitchen is unclear. However, this is not for the council to conclude, it is the valuation Office. You might want to contact them and ask them to decide. The council will need to follow thier lead, but beware, if the VOA decide they are self contained you will get 5/6 Council bills which might be undesirable. Although as self contained units these would now be the tenants responsibility, whereas as a HMO it is your responsibility.

Vedran Beader

10:58 AM, 12th December 2017
About 10 months ago

Thank you for your replies.

It seems it is a grey area but this is unusual as there are clear policies or at least guidelines for most other things related to property.

I think we will need to see what happens a little closer to the time if I am unable to find further information on this matter. I appreciate I should remain in the council's good graces so that they don't take a hard-line approach.

Thank you again for your replies.


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