Room size rules – Council want to issue closure notices!

by Readers Question

9:31 AM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Room size rules – Council want to issue closure notices!

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Room size rules – Council want to issue closure notices!

I have been an avid reader of your letters for many years and wish to put to you a quandary regarding these new rules which are coming into effect in our district and also nationwide.help

We are two owners and landlords of more than 50 mixed, fully approved multi-let, and licensed HMO properties in south Lincolnshire. We use a properly licensed management agent and have no problems with our legal or taxable status.

Our quandary is in regard to the changes in room sizes that are coming into effect and the way our local council is intending to enforce them.

They have sent us an official notice to provide them with addresses, room numbers and dimensions of ALL the rooms in ALL our properties to assess the room sizes in this regard.

We have complied and as a result the council are now intending to issue closure notices on many of our rooms as they fall under the guidance.

The closure notices are mixed between singles and doubles with the majority of the notices being double rooms that are under their required 15 sq m. ( even though it would appear that the legal requirement is in fact only 11sq m) We have only 3 rooms that are under 6.5sq m and presently let as singles. These have of course been issued with closure notices.

The problem as we see it, is thus –

Over that last 10 years we have invested over £2.5m in the refurbishment of our properties, we have worked with the council to assure the standards are fully met with regard to ALL of the regulations and have building plans for the refurbishments/conversions, complete with the correct number of bathrooms, kitchens, sound insulation and fire safety requirements etc etc. We have many building plans – signed off – and full photos, costings and listed refurbishments in our archives.

The council are now intent on issuing closure notices on the rooms that previously they had approved for double and single use due to the new requirements of the law.

The council have written to us stating it is now their legal requirement to enforce the room sizes ( due to national government insistence) even though it would appear that these room sizes were always in the regulations but had never been enforced by the council in any of our approved building works or planning applications.

If – as we can see happening – we are stopped from using the double rooms that are already in occupation by fully vetted and approved tenants – we will have to issue section 21 notices to the couples therein and refill the rooms with new single tenancies.

( with absolutely NO reissue of a single tenancy to “one” of the couples as this would lead to “over crowding” offence when they instantly let their partner “stay ” in their room “temporarily”)

The council are also intent on enforcing the regulations that each multi-let house will have to have at least one communal lounge for tenants use.

In business terms this means the loss of one letting bedroom per house and the loss of the double room rent(s) with the unnecessary eviction of more than 300 people under a VERY difficult process where such section 21 eviction may well be viewed by the courts as illegal, as it is being used only as a means to satisfy the difficult situation that would follow from a prosecution by the council against our company, for non compliance to a legal notice from themselves –

That legal notice being a change in their definition and insistence of room size regulations, which over the past decade, they had not strictly imposed on our conversions.

We have engaged the services of a barrister to take the council to task over this matter.

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated as would any advice from your members.

We are seeking a simple solution – that being – a firm, written assurance with legal backing – that no action will be taken on retrospectively approved multi-let, HMO properties.

At present have four projects under construction which are now under threat – a new 20 bedroom ex-nightclub conversion and 3x, 6 room multi-let property refurbishments. All of which previously have had full council approval and are now at a standstill due to the council having changed their minds as to the bedroom sizes.

We think we need to stand our ground on this matter.

Further –

It will obviously effect millions of people in the future and will make it very difficult financially, to develop suitable properties for multi-let use.

With the imposition of the new mutli-let “mandatory licensing” laws in April of next year? – the councils will have the effective ability to refuse the license for properties – that fail “any” of the regulatory or management standards, with no regard as to their previous permissions, and effectively stop mutli-let use for retrospectively approved, decent, well designed and well run houses unless they are reconverted to the “new” regulations.

As you can imagine this is an impossible situation.

As a last word of humour?

The need for article 4 is now redundant!

Thank you so much for your excellent informative news and mails.

Martin

 



Comments

Neil Patterson

9:33 AM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Have any other readers fallen foul of these room size rules or had Council assessments carried out?

Barry Fitzpatrick

10:22 AM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

I had to licence my HMO properties under Article 4 compliance/licensing introdcuced by my local Council. Fortunately all my room sizes were already complaint but I had to upgrade the fire alarm systems, replace certain interior doors with 30min fire doors, and replace a number of perfectly serviceable uPVC windows (to have botttom opening windows) for LACOSS complaince. I probably had to spend ~£2k per property on average to become complaint.

I know of several Landlords with room size issues who seem to have got a waiver, presumably. I don't know if the waivers are time limited or not.

The licensing also stipulated minimum communal room size, minimum amount of kitchen cupboard space per person, minimum amount of kitchen work surface per person. Plus a raft of other maangement type requirements e.g. maximum repsonse times to the reported issues (dependent upon severity).

Paul Shears

10:42 AM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

The message which is being reinforced with ever greater clarity is that what you have been doing is not viewed favourably and they want you to stop.
You can try and out-wit them all you like but it will make no difference.
Either remove some of the stud walls that have been put up all over the country and reduce your profits or find something else to do.

Luke P

10:49 AM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

What constitutes a double room...the bed size or how many people can share it?

I'm in the North of Lincolnshire and here all my HMOs are let to individual contractors. Pretty much all want (and have) a double bed, but they are only renting a room on their own.

Annie Stevens

16:42 PM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

HMOs on this scale are very rare where I am, the few being mainly restricted to areas near Glasgow Uni. Actually I'm not aware of any, but I think there are some near the Uni. The thought of squeezing in as many tenants as possible like battery hens makes me very uncomfortable, especially without even the provision of a decent sized pleasant communal lounge or kitchen. It must feel like living in a prison cell. I think it's just about acceptable for students who won't be there that long, but if any working or even non-working adults can only afford a small bedroom as their permanent home, it's a sad day.

Ian Ringrose

16:44 PM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Talk to David Smith of anthonygold.co.uk, I think he has won a case on this.

Yvonne Francis

18:48 PM, 26th November 2015
About 3 years ago

The minimum size for a single room is 6.5sq.m. as long as there is a communal lounge, otherwise it's 10sq.m. I am in an area which has been under Article 4 for years. A London borough many years ago tried to enforce higher standards. There was such an out cry from Landlords the Council had to withdraw, so it failed to set a bench mark nationally.

So it can be done and my angle is to ask if there are any landlord groups attempting to control both Westminster or Council's against some of their polices. Twenty years ago I took my Council to the County Court over whether or whether not I was a HMO. I won. Of course as many of you know they came back with clearer and more powerful legislation in 2004.

The trouble with all this is it takes more and more choice from the individual. If an individual chooses to live in a very small room say perhaps because of it's location or it's low cost, and it does not affect anyone else detrimentally what the hell has it got to do with any one else.

One of our houses is very small but well organised and compact. We were told to put a fire door on the kitchen. We did. Next visit they told us to take it off. We were then informed that the kitchen area is just a bit too small and we have to build the kitchen into the lounge which will be uncomfortable to say the least. We have at least fifteen years of happy tenancies, one set coming back to the house after staying in another property for a year. We let to Oxford University students who along with their parents are some of the most motivated and intelligence people in the world. Do they really need protecting. Is not their judgement valid? Oh yes and by the way the Council contract a person to inspect properties in Oxford, arriving and going in a very expensive car!

I claim to be a good landlord. I have happy tenancies and I am I believe well liked. (even by the Council). I treat my tenants as customers to whom I wish to please. How long have I got to put up with all this rubbish the Council dream up. So Martin I can't give you any help but I do have a lot of sympathy with you.

Gareth Wilson

12:54 PM, 27th November 2015
About 3 years ago

A point I would raise with your barrister if I were in your shoes is does not my tenant have a legal right to remain in the accommodation that they have chosen to live within and pay for? There are no environmental health risks, they are not in any danger. Your council is pursuing an action that is going to disrupt their home and work life. Perhaps to substantiate this you could ask the affected tenants to write their own accounts of their desire to remain and sense of outrage.

This is a dangerous regulation in my opinion. It has the potential not just to stop landlords from letting small, low-cost rooms, but of stopping renters with tight budgets and minimal possessions from finding the small low-cost rooms that they need.

This is yet another example of government meddling to the detriment of everyone, and also of landlords being stung for operating transparently. There is another message to landlords between the lines of this disgraceful scenario as well.

Cristian Stoian

9:18 AM, 28th November 2015
About 3 years ago

What the is the size of the rooms they want to close ? Are we talking about closing down rooms below 6.5sqm ?

I know also of cases where the Council wanted to close down rooms of 7-8sqm but they were stopped by the court because the legislation sets the minimum at 6.5sqm.

Gillian Schifreen

13:42 PM, 28th November 2015
About 3 years ago

To be honest I'm quite shocked that in the UK in the 21st Century that anyone is letting a room at 6.5sq mts. And if there isn't a communal lounge are people supposed to live like battery hens - which as it happens now probably have more room per body size due to EU regs than your tenants do.

Surely even a single room should have space for a bed, desk, tv unit, chair wardrobe and enough space to move round easily. Sorry if I'm going against the grain here but if I made the laws I'd ban any room without a communal lounge under 12sq mts.

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