18:10 PM, 21st January 2012, About 10 years ago 50
Norwich City Council are now charging £1,800 for an HMO licence, a 650% increase! Extortionate I think but so far as I knew, it didn’t affect me as none of my properties are licenceable HMO’s, until…
Before I go on with my story, just in case you don’t know what an HMO is it’s a property with three or more stories let to 5 or more tenants, and HMO stands for House in Multiple occupation.
This week my brother and I have spent hours sorting out a problem we didn’t know we had.
I have one of those super trendy 4 bed properties at Riverside, Norwich, where many of the local Premiership footballers are also owners. I’ve owned it from new and my tenants have been there for nearly seven years. It is a four bed three story town house but as I only had four tenants in it I didn’t need an HMO licence.
Unbeknown to me until this week though, two tenants moved out in April last year and an unmarried couple moved into one room and another single chap into the other. They sorted it all between themselves and didn’t see the need to tell us at the time. Therefore, there are now 5 people living in the property.
The original tenancy was pre-deposit protection rules and they had sorted the deposit between them so that’s one less worry to deal with but as you can see I now have a problem, and to make it worse Norwich City Council are aware of it too.
The only reason I found out about this is because one of the occupiers of my property (not one of the people I thought was living there) recently lost his job and has claimed benefits. The Council have asked him for a copy of his tenancy agreement and of course he doesn’t have one. In fairness to my tenants, bless em, were not aware they had done anything wrong. I can easily see how any tenant could inadvertently create this problem, foreign or not. Tenancy law and HMO rules are not something the average person has any awareness of are they?
WHAT A MESS!
If I allow them to stay I need to create a new tenancy, protect the deposit and get an HMO licence as it would become a licenceable HMO. The scary thing about that isn’t just the cost though. I wouldn’t put it past Norwich City Council to bring in Article 4 HMO planning. If that was the case I might not be able to convert the property back into a family home and its value could plummet as as result. That’s another story though!
What choice did I have other than to serve a section 8 notice to give the tenants two weeks to vacate the property on the grounds of breach of tenancy? Well between my brother and I, we’ve been in email communication with them and with Andy Fretwell from the Eastern Landlords Association all week. Andy has been brilliant by the way, if you live in East Anglia I strongly recommend you to become an ELA member.
The email communications started to get unpleasant so we decided that a face to face meeting was the way forward. They all wanted to stay. They have been model tenants in terms of paying the rent, looking after the property, reporting minor issues before they become big problems etc. and the last thing I really wanted to do was to go to war with them in Court to get them out on the grounds of section 8 and breach of tenancy.
Fortunately, there is a happy ending to the story. It’s amazing what can be achieved over a cup of tea around a kitchen table isn’t it?
Once I had met with them and got them to understand that it’s the law that’s an ass, not me, we began to have a civilised and sensible conversation. The outcome is that one of the tenants has agreed to move on so that the others can stay and we will sort a new AST and protect the deposit for the remaining four so it will not become a licenceable HMO.
Will the 5th actually go though I wonder or will he become a “permanent guest” of the remaining four and register elsewhere on the voters roll? Only time will tell I guess but as far as I’m concerned, I think, or at least hope, I’ve done my bit to protect my position.
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