My HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) Dilemma

My HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) Dilemma

18:10 PM, 21st January 2012, About 10 years ago 50

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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?


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.

PHEW !!!



18:58 PM, 25th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Isn't it nice to know we have joined up govenment!!!!?

by Paul Haines

21:16 PM, 25th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Glad you found it funny, it was meant to raise a smile....frustrating as hell at the time - but I guess if you don't laugh you will cry real tears! Cutting through the red tape was a job and a half, at one point I considered selling up my properties if what Liverpool CC were telling me was true. As they would have me belive that all my 3 bed terraces let to 3 people were HMO's that needed to be registered and that I was liable for the council tax on all my properties. Fortunately, from past experience I take everything they tell me with a pinch of salt....many hours of research later I found that for COUNCIL TAX  purposes, If you rent the property to more than 1 person, but they are joint tenants, then they are jointly responsible for the paying the council tax, and for REGISTRATION purposes if it is only 2 storeys it does not need to be registered. A hugh relief at the time!!


8:50 AM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

When is a bedsit, not a bedsit, I have a bedsit with own kitchen,but large enough to put in a shower room with Loo,hand basin and shower. What planning permission or building reg's do I require ? Has anybody met with this problem / 


12:14 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

im also very confused on hmo rules. I live in gwynedd and own 3 storey (4 if you include the ground floor) I live in the property with my 2 children. I thought i could rent out 3 bedrooms with full use of the whole house and facilities. ( these people are friends of mine) but my council say thats not allowed as they are not from the same family and would then make the house a hmo. In such they would need fire alarms, extra fire extinguishers, back up lighting, fire escape signs and fire fires putting in. Way above my pocket. Are they correct or just digging for extra revenue

by Mark Alexander

12:22 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Hi Jayne, I have invited Ben Reeve-Lewis and Mary Latham to comment on this as they are the industry experts. I have an inckling that the Council are right but I'm not sure enough of my ground to confirm that or to offer you any suggestions.

by Mary Latham

12:39 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Jayne the maximum number of lodgers one can take into ones home is 2, by  taking more the property is classed as an HMO and must meet all the HMO property and management standards. 

In the case of your property you would need also an HMO licence because, even taking only 2 lodgers would mean, a total of 5 unrelated people (including you and your children) would be sharing facilities over 4 floors of habitable rooms.

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

12:47 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

I agree with that in principle myself Mary but I have also encountered 2 varying ideas on this held by serving EHOs which is to do with whether or not a couple counts effectively as a single person. Some say yes, in which case 2 lodgers can be taken on but others say no, which means where a couple are in residence it only takes 1 lodger to make it an HMO.

It is rapidly becoming clear that being au-fait with the statutes on HMOs is nothing when compared to the sometimes distinctly whacky interpretations being taken by not only different counicls but also officers within a single council

This is particularly important in the light of the announcement by Oxford City Council to extend mandatory licensing to all HMO, regardless of number of occupants or number of floors (effective from Monday) So even a 3 person flat share on a joint tenancy by 3 best mates will have to be licensed

by Mark Alexander

12:55 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Our News team reported on the position being introduced by Oxford yesterday Ben - see the link below


13:22 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Surely anyone with a 3 bed house where there is a couple occupying  will if they wish; rent out to lodgers who ARE NOT LHA claimants
Nobody will know .
This leaves LHA claimants not even able to be a lodger in a house with some spare rooms as LHA claimants will be notified to council tax dept who will notify housing dept who will then pick up whether an HMO has been registered...
Consequently no one will tell the council of private lodgers and this leaves a valuable spare room resource to house LHA claimants unavailble for them.

by Mark Alexander

13:26 PM, 28th January 2012, About 10 years ago

Are the Council departments that well joined up though? From reading Ben's posts here I suspect not. If they are, it will could picked up between the electoral roll and the planning department whether the lodgers are benefits claiments or not. It will be interesting to see what happens in Oxford.

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