New HMO licence – Can Islington demand these conditions?

by Readers Question

10:02 AM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

New HMO licence – Can Islington demand these conditions?

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New HMO licence – Can Islington demand these conditions?

I recently discovered that my council (Islington) now require my family home (previously classified as an unlicensed HMO as it has 4 young professionals renting it under one tenancy agreement) to be licensed.

After a huge payment to apply for a licence online, and then a second huge payment is taken, I receive an email and letter confirming that they propose to license my house as an HMO, but I need to meet the following Additional Licence conditions:

i. Provide a satisfactory fire detection and alarm system inspection and servicing report that details the required information in FSG7 certificate or equivalent with reference to
ii. Provide a current emergency lighting certificate for the property which has been obtained within the last twelve months.

Since I really don’t want to fit fire alarm system (I have 10 year connected RF smoke/heat alarms as it is) nor an emergency lighting in my house that I may move back into in the future, can anyone advise if the council within their rights to demand that I meet those requirements?

Many thanks

Sandy

 


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Ian Narbeth

11:43 AM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

Hi Sandy
I manage a number of HMOs (thankfully not in Islington). Fire alarms and emergency lighting are standard HMO conditions. Islington have an additional licensing scheme in place which covers "all houses or flats where there are three or four unrelated people, forming two or more households and sharing facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or WC" . https://www.islington.gov.uk/housing/landlords/houses-in-multiple-occupation-hmos.

If you do not comply and get licensed then the Council can take action and your tenants can seek a Rent Repayment Order.

James Mann

11:44 AM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

Hi Sandy, this arrangement has been the norm in Brighton and Hove for well over 6 years. The only benefit is that a property with a current HMO licence is generally worth more on the open market than a "normal" house.
You are very lucky that they are not insisting on fire doors everywhere and all the other expensive safety improvements that are not required for families.

suzy149

11:51 AM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

These requirements have been required in Liverpool for years and also fire doors.

Ian Narbeth

12:02 PM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by James Mann at 30/11/2020 - 11:44
James
With several unrelated people in the house I would expect the Council to require there to be fire doors. Houses built int he last 15 years will usually have fire doors.

TrevL

12:33 PM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

Read another way......I want the extra profit from renting a HMO (over a single family unit), but I don't want to undertake the necessery fire risk assessments and implement suitable fire safety measures to ensure my tenants are safe. And now I am aggreived that the local authority, not trusting landlords of my ilk, are causing me to incur costs to implement basic fire safety measures.

Let me guess, you also claim to be a 'good' landlord.

Colin Dartnell

13:03 PM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

Why do you not want to give your tenants the safety of a fire alarm system. For once a council is doing it's job properly. Not only could it save their lives if there was a fire, but it could also save your property. Bad news for good landlords that you even ask the question.

Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence

14:00 PM, 30th November 2020
About 2 months ago

Hello Sandy
The first point must be that the fire safety of your tenants is of extreme importance. If there were to be a fire and the fire precautions were not adequate you would have badly injured or dead tenants and the possibility of a corporate manslaughter charge.

Turning to your specific questions, then your fire precautions should comply with LACORS and the fire alarm with the updated BS5839-6 2019. Without seeing your property I cannot say for definite what the requirement would be but if, as it sounds like it is say a two storey house then the likely requirement is Grade D1 mains powered interlinked smoke alarms in all living rooms and bedrooms plus heat detector in the kitchen.

The council should indeed expect you to produce an annual maintenance certificate provided by a competent inspector although it should be to BS8539-6 (rather than FSG7 which is a proprietary NICEIC form).

As regards emergency lighting then this is rarely needed in a two storey house unless there is no borrowed light from outside on the landings or stairs. See LACORS for details of when it is/isn't required. It is very easy to provide emergency lighting these days by simply replacing the existing lights with dual function normal/emergency lights such as these https://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/Products/LTG1MCESW.html

Your Fire Risk Assessment (and yes you should have one done by a trained competent person) will tell you exactly what is required. If you need a fire risk assessment and any advice relating to HHSRS and HMO amenity standards do please get in touch. The fines for getting this stuff wrong are eye watering.

http://www.landlordsdefence.co.uk/contact

Bristol Landlord

4:55 AM, 1st December 2020
About 2 months ago

Sandy, welcome to the same world as the rest of us. I don’t know why your so surprised at this, my Victorian terraces in Bristol generally hold 4 tenants, have been regarded for years by Bristol City Council as HMOs and have recently been required to be licensed, at a cost of £1050 each after discounts. They have recently been inspected and I am now installing the latest fire alarm systems, fire doors etc. If I don’t do the work then I get a massive fine and the license is revoked, so there’s not much choice in the matter. I see this as a safety issue and the cost of doing business, as should you. I’m also putting up my rents as quickly and as high as I can to compensate, if the tenants don’t like it then they’re welcome to go live somewhere else.

Londonlad

10:09 AM, 1st December 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Colin Dartnell at 30/11/2020 - 13:03
Really, and do you have a fire alarm on your own home ?, emergency lighting? Exit signs on all the doors ? Escape plan notices ?
I have three young professional tenants sharing a house in hackney for several years who hate all the 'safety improvements' more than I hate the £1850:fee to LBH.

Martin Thomas

10:22 AM, 1st December 2020
About 2 months ago

Woah! I can see Sandy's point and I AM a good landlord! There are already interconnected heat and smoke detectors and only 4 tenants. We don't know what type of tenants or if it a bedsit HMO. You didn't say how many storeys are in the house but if it's only a 2 storey house and not a bedsit HMO, and that would be very typical, there is no need for emergency lighting. Mains interlinked smoke and heat detectors should provide sufficient warning to allow the occupants to escape if a fire starts. Again, fire doors on bedrooms are generally not necessary if it's only 2 storey. The whole point is to get the tenants OUT of the property to a place of safety if a fire starts! The LACORS guide gives really good information on this (pages 27 to 29).
Local Councils are very good at demanding all sorts of things that are not proportionate to the risks and some of them are really dopey. For example, my Council demanded I fit a smoke detector in a single glazed lean-to with one window to the kitchen, outside a ground floor rear bedroom (typical Victorian layout). The smoke detector manufacturer said don't install them in places where the temperature can fall below 4C and I was concerned about multiple false alarms during the winter. When I said that a heat detector was installed in the kitchen (and the usual smoke detectors in the hall and first floor) and that would alert the occupants if a fire started in the kitchen, the reply was "the heat detector might not be working!" In other words, perhaps I and other landlords should double up on all the heat and smoke detectors!
The Council wasn't interested in the evidence about the manufacturer's guidelines or how many nights the temperatures were likely to cause false alarms and I had to threaten them with taking them to the 1st Tier Tribunal before they would see sense.
So Sandy, to answer your point about the licensing conditions, if your house is 2 storey and they are asking for a full fire alarm system, you and other landlords could take them to the 1st Tier Tribunal if you are convinced it is overkill after reading LACORS. It's a pain to do so but sometimes it becomes a matter of principle.

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