Is Hounslow Trying to tax landlords by redefining HMOs?

by Readers Question

3 years ago

Is Hounslow Trying to tax landlords by redefining HMOs?

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Is Hounslow Trying to tax landlords by redefining HMOs?

I was looking at renting out property in Hounslow. One of the agents says a great deal of confusion has been created by Hounslow’s own licensing scheme which came into force in 2014.tax

The government defines large HMO’s as follows:

You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO. Your property is defined as a large HMO if all of the following apply:

it’s rented to 5 or more people who form more than 1 household
it’s at least 3 storeys high
tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities

Hounslow has decided to require all properties let to 4 or more people in any property of 2 or more stories let to 4 or more people in more than one household to obtain a license. This means two couples sharing a small house is an HMO. They charge £1069 for the license.

If you look into the fire regulations published on Hounslow’s own we site there is no special requirements for a 2 story house. (just all the requirements applying to any tenanted property)

So Hounslow will not be enforcing any special requirements for two story houses just picking up a £1069. What do people think?. Is it legal. They have the nerve to say they are short of rented property in Hounslow and want to encourage private landlords but surely this is certain way to keep private landlords out of the market?

Temporary Texan



Comments

Neil Patterson

3 years ago

Hi TT,

This is not uncommon now for councils to define HMOs as properties with two or more unrelated households.

The standard definition is now rarely used even by lenders these days.

Trendo

3 years ago

more than 1 houshold, 5 or more , 3 story is mandatory hmo licensing
Councils also have the option to use "selective additional licensing" which applies to more than 2 sharing in any property if more than one house hold. Councils shoulld have a reason to implement this - poor quality of accom, high crime rate, poor management, antisocial behavoir etc.

Councils using it to get more cash in is probably a strong motivator for doing it.

Graham Chilvers

3 years ago

I have had to looked into this in considerable depth.

The goverment define HMO's not councils. Bristol Council demand a HMO license for a property. The Landlord refused. They took him to court and lost see http://www.landlords.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/council-fails-in-high-court-appeal

If you have a couple with 10 children living in a property. It is not a HMO because they are one household.

Where 3 or more people who are not in a relationship, live in a building and share a bathroom or kitchen. Be it a House share or bedsits, it is HMO and technically you need a licence. You may not be aware that your single tenant who pays all the rent, has sublet to two other people, if so, I believe you would be innocent of not having a licence. I think it is no different to the tenant growing cannibis in your house.

Fully self-contained flats, in a building more than 2 stories high and converted before 1999. is a HMO (No licence fee required but they will/can inspect it)

A block of flats, Where at least one flat isn't fully self-contained. (as in It has a bathroom across the common hallway) even if it is not shared bathroom, is a HMO and a licence is required.

Reply to the comment left by "Graham Chilvers" at "23/11/2015 - 12:31":

Sorry Graham I think you've misunderstood. Trendo is spot on. If its got at least three floors, and is occupied by five or more people who comprise at least two "households" it's automatically an HMO and needs a licence. Local councils can tighten these rules in a particular area, and if they do it is legally enforceable.

The case in Bristol was thrown out because the court ruled that a self-contained two storey property spread across the first and second floors of a building didn't become a three storey HMO just because it was accessed via its own ground floor lobby and staircase.

The definition of a household is best described using examples.

Mum, Dad, two kids and a friend living with them as part of the family comprise a single "household" and will never fall under the definition of an HMO.

Two couples or two singletons sharing a house comprise two "households", but you don't need a licence unless the criteria for an HMO (whether that be the automatic definition of an HMO or a tighter one imposed by the local council) are reached.

Graham Chilvers

3 years ago

Hi, I did a lot of work on the definition of a HMO due to legal arguments with my council. I was in discussion with about 10 local councils at the same time. I was at one point going to do a question and answer flow chart to define an HMO, but I am too busy.

If my description isn't complete, OK, but what I have described isn't wrong. The simplest of all HMO's is three people who are not a family, sharing. When you get into three storey buildings, it is more complicated, due to the which building regs that where in force at the time they were created and the type of layout, even if they are self-contained. Then you have licensed and un licensed HMO's. I have both!

Graham Chilvers

3 years ago

The liability to make god for the tenant was first with the Landlord for he supplied the whole building. They should claim consequential loses from the landlord. The Landlord adds the tenants claim to his own and claims it of the electricity supplier. The electricity supply probably has limits about claiming in the supply contract. Fundamentally this is an issue for the Landlords’ insurance company to deal with. That’s what you pay them for

Be a Landlord

3 years ago

I should have made it very clear the issue here is not the definition of HMOs (which do not normally require a license) versus 'large HMOs' which do.
I find it incredible that we come up with such complex legislation. If they had stuck to 3 stories and more than 5 people that would have been straight forward. The whole issue with defining a household leads the system open to all sorts of interpretation.

The way the legislation has ended up two friends who have known eachother all their lives who want to share a 2 story house each with their partners or wives would constitute two households

Conversely 4 'relatives' who have never met each other may never have lived together before would constitute a single household. See below for definition of relatives. One comment made to me is that as the definition of relative is so wide it would be almost impossible for a council to prove people are not relatives eg nephews, nieces or cousins can be quite a large group of people particularly in some cultures. - Any thoughts?
But much more importantly it illustrates how unjustified the council is in insisting on licensing the 4 sharers who represent a lower risk for causing fire or nuisance than 4 'relatives'.

As the note from Graham Chilvers illustrates, by creating such complex legislation councils will have no chance of achieving a prosecution if their is any ambiguity of any sort. (want to prove my tenants from eastern Europe are not related?)

The following are "households" for the purposes of the Housing Act 2004:

Members of the same family living together including:

Couples married to each other or living together as husband and wife (or in an equivalent relationship in the case of persons of the same sex)
Relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children (and step-children), grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins
Half-relatives will be treated as full relatives. A foster child living with his foster parent is treated as living in the same household as his foster parent.

I think the post from Graham Chilvers highlighting how complex the rules are and hence easy it is to challenge them in

Adrian Matthews

2 years ago

Thanks Graham for the definition you have given:

"Fully self-contained flats, in a building more than 2 stories high and converted before 1999. is a HMO (No licence fee required but they will/can inspect it) "

I have a 3 story property that has been converted to 5 self contained flats prior to 1999, however, access to the top floor is via the first floor. Does this make it an HMO or not?

Rob Crawford

2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Graham Chilvers" at "23/11/2015 - 12:31":

Hi Graham, it is 5 or more (not 3) people in Bristol that determines a licensable HMO (see their website). Also any LA has the Gov't authority to apply selective licensing and require any type of HMO's to be licensed. A recent meeting with Bristol City Council suggested that they are considering applying selective licensing to all HMO's of two or more stories! At a later meeting they were pleading for landlords to help them house an increasing number of homeless DSS!

Anon

2 years ago

"Is Hounslow Trying to tax landlords by redefining HMOs?"

Simple answer: No it is n't

The Housing Act of 2004, contains 3 types of Licensing :-
(1) Mandatory HMO Licensing - compulsory
(2) Additional HMO Licensing - optional
(3) Selective Licensing - optional

Mandatory HMO licensing applies to all councils.

Hounslow have introduced Additional licensing, which applies to 'small HMO'. If you were to rent the property to 3 nurses (friends sharing) on a single tenancy, you will need a Additional licensing. If you rent the same property to "single" family, then you don't need a licensing.

However, Hounslow also want to licensing the following:

"all buildings that have been converted into and consist of self-contained flats where the building work undertaken in connection with the conversion did not comply with the Building Regulations 1991 (or later regulations if applicable) and it still does not comply; and
-where those converted blocks of self-contained flats are owned by the same person; and
-where all the individual units of accommodation are in the same ownership"

I often get confused by what they mean exactly, since it is a bit of a muddle. Portsmouth has similar conditions, but it seems to be a slight variant. If you ask "housing officers", they can't give you an authoritative answer.

For instance if you buy a 1970s building with 3 flats. Does the freeholder get the license? or the individual flats owners?

With all types of licensing, each council comes up with its own petty regulations. There is not standardisation.


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