Room size rules – Council want to issue closure notices!

Room size rules – Council want to issue closure notices!

9:31 AM, 26th November 2015, About 6 years ago 47

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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

by Annie Stevens

18:35 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "KATHY MILLER" at "28/11/2015 - 17:31":

It's one thing for a family to be a bit overcrowded in their own home, but it's something else for strangers to be packed together just because they can't afford anything bigger, and the same goes for two families sharing a house to save costs. Of course it's not the fault of landlords that families have to share to make ends meet, but it looks bad if we appear to be taking advantage of this situation. The fact that we are the only ones providing homes for the those in need says something, but if we met a reasonable standard too at a fair price, we'd have nothing to answer for.

by Cristian Stoian

19:04 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

It would be very interesting to hear a view from the person (name ?) who actually raised this issue in the first place.

What are the room sized that are proposed to be closed ?

Was this a bona fide question ?

by Gillian Schifreen

19:16 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Stevens" at "28/11/2015 - 18:35":

Very well said. Fortunately this isn't the 1930s

by MoodyMolls

19:38 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Stevens" at "28/11/2015 - 18:23":

You would need planning for this and where I live you would not succeed. Nimbys would be out in force. They come out in force for a small 1bed house

by Yvonne Francis

19:53 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Stevens" at "28/11/2015 - 18:23":

Hi Annie
I'm afraid I'm not clever enough to distinguish between accept and choose. What I said, is if a person accepted (or choose if you like) to live in a smaller space, that should be up to them and not prevented by Councils. Don't forget there may be other advantages like cost and location.

You must be aware of the pressure on housing especially in our inner cities. My son a Chartered Architect had to spend years spending 3 hours on a train and cycling about 20 miles through London every day. He left my house at 6.30am and returned by 9.00pm. A small cheaper room may have suited him fine coming home at the weekends. Not all tenants are "desperate", a term used by Gillian.

If you as a Landlord wishes to provide upmarket housing even if you honesty think they will be reasonable, that's great, but I wish to support Martin in the letting of his smaller rooms as I'm sure they are more economic if nothing else. You can't buck the market.

Believe it or not but all my rooms are well over (some by 2-3 times) the minimum in shared student houses with great separate lounges and even dining rooms and I charge a lot less than agents value them and provide good self management. It seems I have the reality and you have your dreams. Dream on!

by Yvonne Francis

20:11 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gillian Schifreen" at "28/11/2015 - 17:14":

Gillian you should look at Hakek 'The Road to Serfdom' In my lifetime I've seen this county going down that road. Attitudes like yours however well meant speeds up this journey. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

by Paul Shears

20:31 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvonne Francis" at "28/11/2015 - 19:53":

Try replacing the word "choose" with the phrase "reluctantly tolerate because they have no choice". A slave may reluctantly tolerate his slavery rather than death, but this does not constitute a "free choice" in any modern sense.
I believe that a basic freedom in ancient Greece was the freedom to own your own slaves. Some elements of society have moved on since then.

by Gillian Schifreen

21:07 PM, 28th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvonne Francis" at "28/11/2015 - 20:11":

I have never understood why some people can't engage in interesting debates without resorting to personal attacks.

by Yvonne Francis

9:54 AM, 29th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gillian Schifreen" at "28/11/2015 - 21:07":

If you take my postings as a "personal attack" then you are not addressing the issues I am raising and certainly not addressing the issues of closure notices facing Martin and how the Council's allow certain standards one year only to change then in the next, causing problems not only for Landlords but for tenants. Perhaps we should end this discussion to give way for more constructive posting which may actually help Martin and his tenants.

by Annie Stevens

11:54 AM, 29th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvonne Francis" at "28/11/2015 - 19:53":

I have sympathy for Martin's tenants, who at least have somewhere to stay at present, and it is counter-productive of the Council to shut rooms down while tenants are using them, but then Councils and governments are prone to irrational, knee-jerk, populist actions without thinking through the consequences on those they purport to help. I can also accept that students or workers like your son, who have a promising career ahead and/or another home to go to at the weekends, will be quite happy with just a tiny bedroom and shared facilities for a limited time. I don't think a self-contained studio constitutes up-market housing either, but should be the minimum standard available to a single person for whom it will be their permanent home. I just feel uncomfortable with the idea that we should be seen to be squeezing in ten bedrooms to maximise rent, when eight would be of a better size to live in, while still providing a reasonable return. I was also discomfited by someone else's recent post, asking if he was getting the most out of housing benefit. These are the kind of things that give us a bad name in the eyes of the general public. I think by and large, the attitudes of most landlords on this site shows us in a good light, and illustrates the problems we face from difficult tenants and ever-increasing legislation in just trying to make a livelihood delivering a good service to our clients, so I cringe when I read the occasional comment which just seems to confirm the public's stereotypical view that we are just trying to squeeze the last drop of profit out of disadvantaged tenants. I would like to be able to maintain the moral high ground, that's all.


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