HMO – ensuite vs loo dilemma

by Sondra McCrohan

10:55 AM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

HMO – ensuite vs loo dilemma

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HMO – ensuite vs loo dilemma

HMO - ensuite vs loo dilemmaI am converting my first house into a HMO. It is a 3 bed, 2 reception, 2 bath house in London… soon to be a 5 bed HMO.

My plan is to add ensuites to the two front bedrooms. This means one tenant is likely to use the large(ish) downstairs bathroom and toilet (on same level) and the final two tenants would share the upstairs bathroom. However, I am now thinking to maximise cash flow, I should turn the upstairs bathroom into an ensuite rather than a shared bathroom. This would then force the last tenant downstairs to the loo in the middle of the night (traipsing through the kitchen).

I would be interested to hear from HMO landlords on risk of void periods/higher turnover on the bedroom upstairs because they need to use the downstairs loo? Am I taking away from Peter to pay Paul so to speak!

The target renters are young professionals… usual mod cons included, high speed broad band, communal TV, cleaner for communal areas, etc.

Cheers

Sondra



Comments

11:03 AM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Hi Sondra,

I think, from a tenant's point of view, the thought of going downstairs to the loo in the middle of the night would be very off-putting.

Why not make the upstairs bathroom into a "Jack and Jill" bathroom, so they both feel like they have an ensuite (accessed from their own room), but shared with the other bedroom?

As long as sharers are not expected to share bathing and toilet facilities with more than two other persons, I don't think they mind a shared bathroom but they would mind going downstairs to the loo in the middle of the night imho.

Alternatively, if space, you could put just an ensuite loo in, and then they can use the downstairs bathing facilities. Covers all requirements that way.

Neil Patterson

11:15 AM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Without knowing the room sizes and positions, is it possible to make 2 ensuites upstairs but maybe with showers only?

Ian Ringrose

12:57 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Even if you can rent your “poor” room at a lower rent, do you wish to mixed top end and bottom end tenants in the same HMO?

Dee Mc

13:22 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Vanessa Warwick" at "10/06/2014 - 11:03":

I totally agree as a tenant I certainly would not want to go downstairs in the middle of night to the loo - and through the kitchen. As a landlord, I would weigh up the increased revenue I may get from an ensuite room vs the loss rent due to void periods if the room with the trek downstairs to the loo proved harder to rent.

Sondra McCrohan

13:57 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Vanessa Warwick" at "10/06/2014 - 11:03":

Hi Vanessa

Thanks for replying. I too had thought of a jack and jill. Unfortunately the middle bedroom is on a different level (higher up) and to add steps would take too much space away from the bathroom. The adjoining wall of the bedroom higher up is also load bearing... the builder has also completed the new wall for the bedroom on the other side of the bathroom (I moved it to create space in bedroom). All in, it would be quite a bit extra work to create ensuite toilets instead.

I am thinking the configuration of 2 people sharing the bathroom upstairs and 1 tenant using downstairs bathroom is more appealing than two ensuite toilets upstairs and 3 sharing downstairs washing facilities??

I really appreciate your advice on this... I wasn't sure if a downstairs loo would put most renters off, I know it would me, but wanted to check what others have experienced/advise.

Cheers

Sondra

Sondra McCrohan

14:14 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil Patterson" at "10/06/2014 - 11:15":

Unfortunately not 🙁 Bathroom size is not large enough to cut up into two shower rooms with toilets. Add to this, one of the bedrooms is on a higher level which would require steps down taking space from either the bedroom, which is bang on 10m2, or the bathroom. If tenants didn't mind schlepping downstairs to the loo in the middle of the night, creating the ensuite for one bedroom would be good as the rental income would increase... but I am getting the distinct impression doing so would risk the rentability of the room that would need to use the downstairs loo!

Thanks for your suggestion though!

Sondra McCrohan

14:24 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ian Ringrose" at "10/06/2014 - 12:57":

hmmm, not really no! Are you suggesting that I would need to reduce the rent on the bedroom that uses the downstairs loo? I guess that is a possibility if the bedroom really was unappealing to most tenants. I would have to balance the loss on that room against the gain on the ensuite room, including higher possibility of voids.

Let's say I did reduce the rent, I think the profile of the tenant would be the same... just not earning as much as the ensuite tenants or willing to pay as much on rent. Keep in mind that this is my first HMO, so these thoughts and opinions are not based on HMO experience!

Thanks for your reply.

Romain Garcin

14:45 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Isn't there also a risk that the more self-contained the rooms become the higher the likelihood to have the council want to register them as separate dwellings for council tax purpose?

Sondra McCrohan

15:08 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Romain " at "10/06/2014 - 14:45":

Hi Romain

Thanks for your reply. There will be shared kitchen/diner facilities in this HMO, i.e. no cooking facilities in the bedrooms. I am already working with the local council and they are aware of my plans, they have not suggested they would need to be registered separately or that this HMO is bordering on the possibility.

Cheers

Sondra

Lynne Davis

19:16 PM, 10th June 2014
About 5 years ago

First, in answer to your question, my guess is that two rooms with a shared bathroom will rent more easily than one with an ensuite and one that has to go downstairs to use the loo. Also, if I'm interpreting your post correctly, if the upstairs bathroom is shared then the downstairs one could be for the exclusive use of the downstairs tenant (except in emergency). If you made the upstairs bathroom ensuite then the downstairs tenant would lose their private bathroom so you'd be making both of the non-ensuite rooms less desirable anyway.

Also, I was going to say the same thing as Romain; I've been reading horror stories in the last week or two about councils reassessing HMO rooms which have ANY degree of self-containment as Band A dwellings for council tax purposes. There's a recent thread on Property Tribes where this is discussed, and looking at that and the VOA guidance, it seems that even having some non-ensuite rooms is not necessarily a defence; it's more about the number of structural changes that have been made.

Even if your council says that they have no plans to reassess, who's to say that they might not change their minds in a year or two when they realise what's in it for them? (5-6 x Band A council tax instead of 1 x Band C/D/E, effectively doubled because they also get the New Homes Bonus!)

We're actually dealing with a similar dilemma at present: we're about to convert a house into a high-end HMO (which will involve a sizeable extension so we're certainly vulnerable from a structural work point of view) and are undecided whether to go for all ensuites or some ensuite and some shared. The local council actually wants to ENCOURAGE HMOs but policies can change, especially where there's the prospect of more income.

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