Please help with confusion over Building Regs and HMOs

by Readers Question

9:54 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Please help with confusion over Building Regs and HMOs

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Please help with confusion over Building Regs and HMOs

I so need some help as I just cannot Lose anymore money on professional services to be told different things by different people. I feel permanently anxious as my husband recently died and left me to manage a small portfolio which has untold problems which is causing me much stress.

One big problem I’ve asked about before but I’m just getting nowhere.

I have a 4 story building with 8 self contained studios above a hair salon. Checked paperwork and when husband bought them he reconfigured from 7 flats to 8 and there are no certificates from previous owner or him.

For them not to be deemed as HMOs I need to prove that they comply to 1991 Building Regulations or if they don’t, I can make them comply.

I’ve employed 2 different private building control firms to do an appraisal of the building plus sought opinion from Property118, printed off LACORS so I feel I’m quite equipped knowledge wise, but I feel like I’m going around in circles.

One Building Control person said doors should be 30 min separation and ceilings and walls 60, but doesn’t mention floors; the other Building control company says all have to be 60 mins. One mentions lobbies required in individual studios, the other doesn’t and so it go’s on.

What do I do? Which do I go by? This is all costly stuff and will require me to empty my flats (lost rent) and I cannot get it wrong. What if I do all this and then when I come to get Hackney Building Control to sign off, they may say different again.

I feel overwhelmed. This is just one property from the portfolio and I would say that over half have got problems to sort so you can imagine the stress it’s causing.

Please could someone try to help me please with what I should do.

Thank you.

Sharron



Comments

Derek t

10:10 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

I would go with two options
Put the properties in auction with tenants in situ and get rid as you don’t need the stress or get the council to inspect the properties and tell you exactly what you need to do to comply with the regs if you show them you are working with them to rectify any issues I’m sure they would work with you to achieve the level of construction they would be happy with.

James Barnes

10:14 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Firstly, why do you want them not to be HMOs, can you not leave them as they are?
There are not doubt countless S.257 HMOs (poorly converted HMOs not meeting the 1991 Buildings Regs) throughout the country. So long as they're safe in terms of fire safety you don't necessarily have to bring them up to current Building Regs standard.
Another thing to consider will be that bringing them up to standard will also entail noise transmission, and probably other issues, as well as fire separation and detection.
In any event my advice would be to show each of the appraisals you have to the Council Building Control department and ask for confirmation that they meet the required criteria, and if not what ask they're failing on.

David Price

10:23 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Be safe and put 60 minute fire doors everywhere, they are more expensive but the cost of replacing a 30 minute door, when a building inspector decides he wants better protection, is even more expensive. Go with Derek's suggestion with regards to the council. Have you had a fire risk assessment? This will give you a wealth of information and a plan for refurbishment at a modest cost.
I have never been challenged about floors, in fact nobody has ever mentioned them.

Caroline Brooks

10:36 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

I own a block of flats that are deemed HMOs under S257 and like you wanted to change them to meet 1991 Building Regs. In the end I worked that was much easier to install the appropriate fire alarm, doors etc and licence them as HMOs. Your council should have the information informing you what work you need to carry out to make them compliant as HMOs. This will then be definitive and will ensure you receive your licence. The work can be carried out with minimum disruption to your tenants.

You can also speak to Richard Tacagni of http://www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk. He is a really nice guy and extremely experienced and can take on the burden of applying for the licenses or consultancy.
Good luck and I hope things work out for you.

The Seasoned Female Investor

10:42 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

This may help.
I purchased many properties in the very early nineties some were commercial with accommodation above. The two I have which are more specific to your case are four shops on the ground floor with two flats above. So in 1992 I had to install 60 minutes fire protection (two sheets of plaster board on the ceilings of the shops) The accommodation had separate protected fire staircase with 60 minute fire doors and closers to each flat. The kitchen had a fire door and closer, and a monitored interlinked fire alarm was installed (commercial panel with battery installed in lobby) In those days I would have a meeting with a fire officer to insure the layout complied with means of escape, also insuring the kitchen was not positioned where if a fire occurred the route would be compromised. Noise separation and heat lose was not such a big problem in those days, but today you will need minimum EPC of an 'E' to let, which I expect will change over the next few years.

Mrs A

10:52 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

I can only second what Derek T has said. Go straight to your local authority and have them stipulate the work that needs to be done. Each council will have their own standards, so if you have properties in different boroughs you should go with the advice of the individual councils. I had a positive experience with my council going through this process. They allowed around 6 months to make all the changes to convert to HMO and were helpful along the way.

Luke P

10:59 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Honestly, life is worth more than your stress. Get rid and enjoy the proceeds and not worry about this anymore. It sounds as though you’ve had enough to deal with already.

PG

11:16 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Hi,

I think it's a no brainer to put 60 minute fire doors in now. That shows that you are concerned about people's safety, and puts your mind at rest. Perhaps you could put on property up for sale so that you could fund any work needed. You could then tell the council that you are selling your portfolio because you believe your husband has left them in a condition that is not acceptable/licensable etc, and see how the council can help you. At least that way, you're covered if you need to fund any building work, you're showing willing to the council (perhaps even going so far as to sell your portfolio), and it'll be a good way to present yourself to the council, to ask for some help.

John Simpson

11:28 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Under the very latest rules on HMOs, your property is only classified as an HMO if there are more than 5 tenants from more than one family AND they share either a toilet, bathroom or kitchen, which clearly your's don't. However there will be other Building Regs your husband should've complied with, not to mention planning, in creating a further studio (assuming Planning and B Regs were obtained for the original 7?) but if the works are old enough then exemptions may apply. A local building inspector being anal as they are, would probably quote you all the current regs which could mean doing a lot of unnecessary work. I'd get a building surveyor in to give you advice if I were you. Any property built 5 years ago to spec at the time probably doesn't meet todays regs now, but that doesn't mean you have to do work on your property every time new building regs come out. The other thing I'd do once you've had the advice is to run it past your buildings insurer.

Seething Landlord

11:40 AM, 24th October 2018
About 3 weeks ago

I remembered that this question had been raised and that you were having difficulty in finding anyone with a knowledge of the 1991 Regulations so asked for advice at a course I attended recently. The answer from the Local Authority Private Rented Housing Manager was that LA Building Control can advise and issue a regularisation certificate, albeit at a cost, if the property does in fact meet the 1991 regulations. As you have had conflicting advice it sounds as though you need to check the actual regulations, which should be available in the microfiche records held by the LA. If there is anyone still employed who was around in the early 90s and remembers the Regs the job of establishing the requirements might be more straightforward but I was told that essentially those regulations introduced standards for compartmentalisation and means of escape, but you probably already knew that (I didn't as I have always steered clear of the types of property affected).

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