Michael Mathews

Registered with Property118.com
Saturday 18th November 2017

Latest Comments

Total Number of Property118 Comments: 10

Michael Mathews

13:19 PM, 24th August 2021, About 2 months ago

Planning permission for change of use from C3 to C4?

Please go into this with your eyes open. There are too many HMOs and the Council will seek to refuse most new applications to suppress even more. The Art.4 Directive will have been put in place to enable them to do this - it is put in place because the Council have decided that area is a "problem" area for HMOs. Try to understand what their acceptance criteria is. In Manchester they will not grant planning permission unless (1) less than than 20% of the houses within 100m are HMOs, (2) you will not be taking a single occupancy out of use (ie: a house that was flats can be an HMO, but not a house that was a single home for one household), (3) Even if they do grant planning permission, it is likely to be with potentially crippling conditions - very small number of occupants allowed, impossible number of car parking spaces to be provided etc
They should also have some form of "strategic plan" for development in their area - though you may find it incompressible or so vaguely worded as to mean everything and nothing and so they can use it just justify whatever arbitrary decision they make.
I would not hire consultants, as the chances of you succeeding are likely not to be good, the fight could be long and you will burn cash (pay fees) while all this goes on.
I suspect most HMO's will have come about illegally - ie: people just do and be damned and if they get away with it for 4+ years the Council can no longer enforce and it becomes planning legal automatically (with or without a Permitted Development Certificate: Existing Use) see s.191(2) Town & Country Planning Act 1990. This form of "established use" planning permission is then condition free (though it must still comply with HMO standards, licencing etc)
Albeit in is in contravention of planning regs

Such contraventions are civil wrongs (no penalty if you are caught), but if they catch you and serve a Planning Enforcement Notice on you, a breach of this is criminal (not having a TV licence is also criminal). The Council can do works on your house to put it back the way it was - but given it will be primarily a "change of use" there might be no such work to be done
The Councils are not under a duty to enforce planning permission - they can chose to do so. If they chose to do so and they get it wrong, they can be liable to their costs, your costs and compensation for loss of rent etc for the period they forced you not to rent it out as an HMO. So keeping the situation "grey" for 4+ years can be a successful strategy
The Councils will likely fight dirty. It is regrettable, but you may need to be prepared to get your hands a little dirty to succeed
Wish it were otherwise
None of this stops you making the most wonderful HMO. One that will put the flood of other mediocre HMOs out of business. So I wish you luck, whatever you do.... Read More

Michael Mathews

16:31 PM, 7th June 2021, About 4 months ago

Live in landlord - HMO requirements?

There are many definitions of an HMO - the one Jay refers to is the definition of an HMO that needs an HMO Licence.... Read More

Michael Mathews

16:42 PM, 5th June 2021, About 4 months ago

Live in landlord - HMO requirements?

A strict interpretation of the law would mean that you do need an HMO Licence, and even if you did not, a strict interpretation of the law means (even for just 1 lodger) that you still have to meet ALL the HMO standards. The question is whether the Council would bother enforcing any of this in such a situation. They have a legal duty to do so, but they may choose not to do so any way. While you have just 2 lodgers (and everyone here is assuming they are unrelated people - ie: separate "households") you can ask the Council still to inspect your HMO and confirm it meets the standards - even if they would not spend the money issuing you with an HMO licence because they did not have to (it costs them money and time). They may agree to do such an inspection - or refuse (because they don't want to spend money on this) and then just remind you that even with an HMO where you do not need an HMO licence, you must still meet ALL HMO standards.
Or they may limit their input to telephone advice that you must meet all HMO standards regardless of whether you need an HMO licence or not.

The relevant standards would include HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating system (covering 29 problem areas (fire safety, damp, cold, excess warm, sound, space etc), LACORS (fire safety) and their HMO Policy. The Council tend to be most concerned about Fire Safety (fire doors, fire door frames, fire strips, fire alarms (mains fed, battery backed up, interconnected (if one goes off, all go off in hallways and all at risk rooms (living rooms, kitchens... - not nec. bedrooms))), gas/electric certs, provision of enough bathroom/kitchen etc facilities, space (room size) as the other factors in HHSRS etc have a significantly less serious impact on lodgers/tenants wellbeing.

Councils can automatically find out your home is an HMO when lodgers/tenants apply for housing benefits... (within a UC claim...). You may find yourself getting an automatic letter from the Council requiring you to get an HMO licence as a result.

Making sure it's a well maintained home is not enough - most homes do not have fire doors/frames/strips or fire alarms (interconnected, mains fed, battery backed up (in corridors and at risk rooms (living room, kitchen) - so most "well maintained homes" would not meet the higher standards necessary for an HMO.

The principal for requiring higher standards for rented out properties is that tenants/lodgers are more vulnerable than owner occupiers.
If an owner-occupier sees a lose wire they are more likely to fix it, than a tenant who is more likely to turn a blind eye and expect a landlord to fix it, even if the landlord has no way of knowing about the problem because the tenant does not report it to them).

The principal for requiring yet higher standards for HMO's is that you are trying to pack more sardines in a tin of a finite size.

You are (to an extent) allowed to kill (put at risk) yourself in your own owner/occupied house - you are not allowed to kill (put at risk) tenants

Even if it is your own home, you still have tenants/lodgers and are still packing them in quite tightly. So the need for HMO standards still exist - despite being your home.

A "nice, comfy, well maintained" home, is not necessarily a safe home for HMO purposes.

Most "nice, comfy, well maintained" homes don't have fire doors/frames/strip, HMO standard fire alarms, enough bathroom/kitchen capacity for so many people, large enough rooms etc

Strictly, you should meet all standards, even if you have just 1 lodger and need no HMO Licence. Council's may not enforce this with just 1 lodger, but they will get increasingly hotter on the topic the more you grow your HMO, so you should seek to comply better and better as you get bigger and bigger, because the risks to tenants/lodgers increasing as the HMO gets bigger and bigger.... Read More

Michael Mathews

13:06 PM, 3rd June 2021, About 5 months ago

Business rates for a commercial property after forfeiture?

If you were to insist your EX tenant should pay, then you would be "waiving" your forfeiture and treating the lease as subsisting - your EX-tenant could argue he does not need Relief from Forfeiture, as you have already "waived" forfeiture.
Your actions in regard to forfeiture must be unambiguous - so even refusing to pay the business rates could be interpreted as a "waiver" to forfeiture - you must always act as if the lease no longer exists - including paying the Business Rates. At the Relief from Forfeiture application, if the court is minded to grant Relief, then you would need to make sure the conditions are that they must meet your legal costs and business rates expenditure FORTHWITH and deal with all and any other breaches that caused you to forfeit the lease in the first place.
Michael... Read More

Michael Mathews

4:28 AM, 31st March 2019, About 3 years ago

Dispute on certification for fire doors going to court?

An FD30 fire door (30 minutes minimum fire resistance) can readily be identified by its thickness (usually 45mm vs 35mm of ordinary doors), weight and it being solid (not hollow, filled with honeycomb cardboard)
It takes very little to resist fire for 30 minutes - a stud partition with ordinary plasterboard with a skim coat will do this.
Remember that the guidance on identifying doors as FD30 or FD60 is only "guidance" and not a legal "must" - it is just one (easy) way that you can demonstrate compliance.
Remember also that civil courts decide matter "on the balance of probability" ("more likely than not" or more than 50% likely to be the case) which is a low bar to pass. If you have an invoice or whatever that states the doors are FD30 and the other side have nothing specific (ie: don't have their own fire test results to show this is not the case or can obviously show they are not FD30 - because they are falling into pieces etc), then you have proven that the doors are FD30 on the balance of probabilities / to a greater than 50% likelihood.
Unlike criminal prosecutions, for which the onus of proof is on the prosecutors and they must prove their case "beyond any reasonable doubt", in civil claims the onus falls equally on both sides, but whoever is proven wrong is likely to have to pay the costs of both sides (ie: be ordered to pay the costs of both sides by the court, if asked to do so just after the court makes its judgement on the matter).
Given you have invoices etc that state the doors are FD30 and the other side appear to have nothing (other than a lack of a label on the door, which is not a "must") it is likely that you will win and they will have to pay your costs - it can be a useful tactic to warn the other side about the risk of "adverse cost orders" (the loosing party being ordered to pay the costs).
The way you can "prove" the doors are FD30 is:
- Show them the paperwork
- Provide a witness statement from you, signed with a statement of truth, that says your supplier states they are FD30 - a witness statement signed with a statement of truth counts as "proof" and will stand as fact unless the other side have some positive evidence to contradict it (ie: a fire test they have done, expert visual evidence...)
- Inspect them yourself - if they are ~45mm thick, seem relatively heavy and solid then they are likely FD30 doors (remember that you will need an FD30 door, an FD30 door frame and intumescent strips all around the door or frame)

If they insist on a fire test being the only evidence they will accept, remind them that they will be ordered by the court to pay for this too, if and when they loose.

Remember that the Building Regulations 1991 are elegantly simple - in essence they just require you to take all reasonable measures to make sure the building is fire safe - leaving it to you to determine how to do this - and for you (as "responsible person" for the building) to prove to a court that you had done so, if ever there was a fire and you were ever prosecuted for not making sure the building was fire safe.
Cladding Grenfell tower in flammable material was, and remains always, illegal, as the result was no longer fire safe.
Approved Documents (ie "B" in the case of fire safety) are only guidance in how you may be able to make a brick and timber building fire safe. It is possible for your building to comply 100% with such Approved Documents, but still be unsafe.

Remember, that:

"MUST" = something that you must do by law
"SHOULD" = best practice to do
"MAY" = a way in which you can show you have complied with the law.

Guidance = a MAY = a way you can demonstrate you have complied with the law ie; a label on the door is just one of the ways you can prove the door is FD30 - an invoice, an email from the supplier, visual checks on the door etc are all other ways that can demonstrate "on the balance of probabilities" that the door is FD30 - which can only be the case if the door, wall, intumescent strip and wall around it comply (a chain is as strong as its weakest link)

As for reporting the supplier to Trading Standards - don't do it. The supplier is just seeking not to be sucked into pointless legal action and is not behaving badly enough to warrant such a report. Ideally they would just send you a letter confirming they are FD30, but they don't have to - and if it is evident enough they are FD30, there is not need.

You appear to be dealing with a "jobsworth". You need to respond with a firmly worded letter stating the above. Do not be shy about doing this - courts want you to resolve matters before burdening them with resolving your disputes - if you can show that you have (show them copies of your letters etc), then they will be penalised with higher adverse costs.... Read More