Is my licenced shared student house a single private dwelling?

Is my licenced shared student house a single private dwelling?

9:11 AM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago 12

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Hello, Portsmouth City Council are trying the tell me the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) applies to a shared house (a small HMO let out whole) on a Joint Tenancy.

Of course, in HMOs with rooms let individually, the unlet common parts are subject to FSO as those areas are managed by the landlord and are construed as being a place of business.

With the whole of the property legally in the possession of the tenants with a joint let, I only have a right of entry to do what is defined in HMO Management Regulations.

The FSO scope excludes “single private dwelling” so this hinges on whether or not a small HMO (2 storey, 5-bed) let out whole (to students) on a joint tenancy is or is not a “single private dwelling”.

Any tribunal precedents anyone knows of on this would be helpful.

Thanks,

S


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Comments

PJB

11:04 AM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

We had a similar issue with WelHat some years ago.
They persisted in refusing to distinguish between 'whole of house' and 'single room let' HMO's.
Our let was a two storey 'whole of house'. We got them to see sense after quoting Lacor's (https://www.dashservices.org.uk/Media/Default/Docs/Lacors%20Fire%20Safety%20Guide.pdf) at them.
You may find case study D4 (page 41) summarises most of the points you might need provided your property is not more than two storeys high.
WelHat accepted most of our points but insisted on tenant declarations to prove that their tenancy was for a 'whole of house' single dwelling.

Cider Drinker

13:37 PM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

It’s the same with HMOs. I think the author has an HMO. Three or more unrelated people etc.,

Freda Blogs

13:41 PM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

If there are 5 people living in a property I cannot see why there would be a differentiation of necessary works on the grounds of tenure? Fire doesn't take any notice of tenure.

Having had both Student lets and HMOs, I would venture that the student lets could be more at risk of fire safety issues, as under an HMO you can go in to inspect the common parts and check on things regularly, unlike a single/joint and several let where you have to observe quiet enjoyment provisions and visits tend to be less frequent.

Cider Drinker

14:09 PM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

When a family live in a single property, there tends to be a hierarchy of responsibility. Children and immature adults are supervised by the most responsible person.

When 5 x adults are sharing a property in an HMO, nobody takes overall responsibility. This is why HMOs need to be regulated and any attempt to skirt around the rules must be frowned upon.

Si BB

14:36 PM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

I disagree with Portsmouth City Council - a single AST covering the WHOLE dwelling for x numbers of tenants IS a single dwelling. How can you have multiple dwellings under this scenario?

This is why the "The Licensing and Management of Houses of Multiple Occupation and Other Houses ... 2006" act was created in part to cover THIS specific gap between the 2005 Fire Safety Order Act and HMOs rented under a single AST.

It's also important to recognise that if a house was let on multiple ASTs (for each bedroom), the common areas are under the FULL management of the landlord (including no warning of access/entry by agents of the landlord).
- This is why we run all our HMOs under single ASTs (with a lead tenant defined) and also that the tenants have FULL control of the WHOLE property.

Why did we do this? Simple, the 2005 Fire Safety Order Act is a nasty piece of work - the fines are unlimited and the rules are effectively commercial property fire safety rules applied to a small/medium HMO (i.e. 3-6 bedroom sized HMOs).

Yvonne Francis

17:40 PM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

I don't know how many you have let this house to but if you have five bedrooms may I presume you have five. Five students in a house can be no other than a HMO and subject to fire regulations. Long long before the bombshell of 2004 I had to take my Council to court to try and prove I was not a house in multiple occupation and subjected to all sorts of fire regulations. The case went on so long that my students (the Council were using them as evidence) had left the house, so the Council agreed to let us write an agreement to this situation and they would sign it.

However the bombshell of 2004 made houses of five or more unrelated tenants, which was later taken down to three, a HMO and subject to many things including licensing, and fire regulations whether, or whether not, you had a joint tenancy. Luckily for me, having had the experience I had, and knowing what was blowing in the wind, I had installed all the necessary fire precautions by 2004.

Councils differ but I imagine most councils are down to three, so a house of five is definitely a HMO and subject to all that is required. Trying to think you have a 'single private dwelling' if you have three or more is no protection in the same way my Joint and Severally liable lease never at any time protected me.

PJB

23:24 PM, 19th January 2024, About 4 months ago

Some of the above contributions need clarification:
Given that Local Authorities use, or should use, LACORS Housing Fire Safety Guidance 2008 produced in partnership with the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the following points confirm the position regarding a 'whole of property' single tenancy agreements:
1. The agreement always appoints a 'lead tenant' as head of the household with all the responsibilities that involves.
2. There are no common areas.
3. For two story properties with appropriate 450mm opening windows providing secondary escape egress routes, there are no (enforceable) requirement to provide:
- self-closing bedroom doors.
- window restrictors which would otherwise hinder escape or rescue.
- locks on bedroom doors.
- fire protection around staircases.
Lacors, in a clarification document issued in 2009, made the case that a group of people living in a single or two storey property although unrelated to one another were in many respects living as a family looking out for one another. In their view, insisted that 'room let' HMO adaptations be made for such 'family like' tenancies was overkill and unnecessary.
On a personal note, our LA accepted these arguments, if somewhat grudgingly, which allowed us to switch between classic family lets and single tenancy student lets without the need to make alterations.

PJB

0:00 AM, 21st January 2024, About 4 months ago

In reply to Simon F: "Thanks PJB. I have the 2008 LACORS guidance. That 2009 clarification doc sounds very useful; where could I find that,..."
I have finally tracked down both documents as a pair from https://www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/fire-safety/:

LACORS Housing Fire Safety Guidance 2008 document:
https://www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/sites/default/files/pdfs/Lacors%20Fire%20Safety%20Guide.pdf
LACORS Fire Safety Guidance Clarification 2009 document:
https://www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/sites/default/files/pdfs/Housing%20-%20fire%20safety-%20guidance%20on%20fire%20safety%20provision%20for%20certain%20types%20of%20existing%20housing%20March%202009%20clarification%5B1%5D.pdf

DPT

7:30 AM, 22nd January 2024, About 4 months ago

The Fire Safety Act 2021and Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 made changes to the Fire Safety Order 2005, which I believe includes applying it to HMOs let as joint tenancies, so I think the Council are correct.

Si BB

10:37 AM, 22nd January 2024, About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by David at 22/01/2024 - 07:30
Can you show me where it says this in the act? I've read it (and the 2005 Fire Safety act) and I don't see this.

From my recollection, it inherits the single dwelling exclusion from the 2005 FSO act.
- I.e. HMOs running as a single household are still outside of this act.

I will review this to confirm and report back.

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