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

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.




by Annie Stevens

12:04 PM, 29th November 2015, About 6 years ago

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

I meant to add, it sounds as if you are offering a good standard of room size and common facilities, and charging reasonable rents, so that's perfectly fine. So I'm not dreaming, it can be done, as you yourself demonstrate.

by Paul Shears

13:39 PM, 29th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Stevens" at "29/11/2015 - 11:54":

Well said!

by Yvonne Francis

15:22 PM, 29th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Stevens" at "29/11/2015 - 11:54":

HI Annie
My intentions in my postings were never to "squeeze the last drop of profit out of disadvantaged people" but give them the option to decide for themselves and not decide the "moral high ground" for them. The letting residential market is full of statutory obligations on landlords. Our right to make private agreements, as in commercial property has been eroded. In Germany for instance tenants move in with their kitchens and bathrooms, but this would not be allowed in this country?

You also mention "squeezing in ten bedrooms to maximise the rent".
I was thinking more of offering low cost rooms and giving the tenants the economic benefit. Preferably well architecturally designed practical small units. With all the present legislation there is simply no room to innovate as my son finds when he works on designing student accommodation, charging £500pppw in central London and £245pppw /350pppw. for Royal Holloway Uni. south London.

I've been a landlord for 35 years and residential letting has always been a problem of one kind or another, mainly through the meddling of governments, which in my opinion has not helped either landlord or tenant.

by Annie Stevens

14:51 PM, 30th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvonne Francis" at "29/11/2015 - 15:22":

I don't think you are squeezing the last drop, nor necessarily is Martin. In some converted properties, some of the rooms will be small already, and it wouldn't be practical to make them any bigger, but they should still be lettable to someone who is prepared to take a small room, hopefully at a lower rent. There's no doubt though that there are some cases of squeezing out the max, for instance by splitting a decent big room into two that are really on the small side. As I said before, HMOs are a bit of an alien concept to me, as there is very little demand here outside student territory, and they are strongly disapproved of by Councils, NIMBYs and rightly concerned neighbours in any case. I read about them a lot on property websites and magazines though, where landlords or developers explain how they made the conversion and how much rent they expect to make. I still believe no-one would choose to live in a room 2.5 x 3m if they could get one 3.5 x 4m for the same price. So their choice is not a free one, it is being dictated by what they can afford. Still, I can see that in areas where there is a shortage of housing available, and it is prohibitively expensive, landlords are not the bad guys for at least providing somewhere for people to live. If the government, opposition, and housing charities are determined to put us all out of business, they'd better come up with an alternative and fast. That will no doubt be provided by the sort of big money and foreign investors that your son is trying to design for, which are the only kind this government is interested in toadying to. Then the scope, variety, and price available to tenants, particularly the poorer ones, will really be restricted, and these big corporate "landlords" won't struggle to evict troublesome tenants the way we do. You've already described the sort of rents they charge, and it'll be even worse once they have it all their own way. Let's see how far the landlord bashers get in campaigning against that lot once they've got their foot in the door. About as far as we've got with the big banks I'd guess.
We lived in Germany in the '80s, and were surprised to find one of the flats we rented to have no kitchen, and discovered that it was fairly commonplace for people to take their kitchen around with them along with their other furniture when they moved house. We just bought one second hand with everything else we needed, and sold it all again when we came home four years later. It was then, and still is, fairly normal to rent in Germany. There were estates or blocks of what you might call council or social housing, as well as plenty private rental property. My impression then was that the public housing was of a good standard, and mainly let to Germans, long term, like at home. Private rentals were used by Germans or foreigners, and ranged from purpose built blocks, to converted houses, to annexes or granny flats in the landlord's home. I don't know what the laws were, but it seemed that the landlord wasn't required to provide anything in particular, and the tenant was free to do what they wanted with the property, within reason. Houses to buy were around three or four times the price of the equivalent house back home, though they weren't really equivalent. Families tended to save up well into their forties, and often pooled their resources to build a big family house, with at least one rental apartment in the basement or ground floor, to help pay for it. I think mortgages could also be passed from one generation to the next. Some families owned the big old three and four storey traditional half-timbered houses and converted them to flats. We lived in one of these, with two other tenanted flats and the landlords' home in the same building, and their hairdressing business on the ground floor. The landlords were lovely, and happy to let us decorate and make minor modifications to the flat, and we were model tenants, taking our turn at polishing the common wooden staircase, cleaning the common utility area in the basement, putting out the wheelie bins, and clearing snow from the yard and pavement. Can you imagine this here? We had a great time there, working hard and enjoying our leisure time, and managed to save enough money to come home with a deposit for our first flat. We've never had any savings or leisure time since, as first homeowners and now landlords. There's a lot to be said for renting instead of buying as a lifestyle choice. And you are so right about the meddling of governments, at least when they are determined to meddle in things about which they know nothing, and are only willing to listen to one side of the story.

by Ian Ringrose

16:05 PM, 30th November 2015, About 6 years ago

I would choose to live in a 2.5 x 3m even if I could get one 3.5 x 4m for the same price, assuming I was working away from home Mon/Fri and the smaller room was closer to the office. When doing 9hr days, so you can take a half day on the Friday, the room is needed for little more than sleeping.

And that is what makes HMO room size standards so hard, different tenants have different needs….

by AllanW

17:12 PM, 30th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Paul Shears" at "29/11/2015 - 13:39":

Paul, The small rooms are eseential for many people , especially those under 35 years of age, as the councils only pay them £265 per month to rent a room. - So where do you get a room at £265? - Answer is by renting a small room. - They cannot afford the £450 pcm that single rooms rent for around me! - So the choice many have is just Doss on the streets or rent a Small room and at least have some privacy.
Just for the record I do let single rooms and dont have a shared room so they are all just over 10 sq meters and have additional area for the ensuites.

by MoodyMolls

18:03 PM, 30th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Stevens" at "30/11/2015 - 14:51":

I do think that when the homeless shoots up then its highly likely the government will say
Look at these great build to let companies they are going to house all these people . The rents will be double and I bet government will be happy to pay for it. We will be slagged off for making poor tenants homeless.

by Annie Stevens

18:46 PM, 30th November 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "KATHY MILLER" at "30/11/2015 - 18:03":

Yes that's what I fear will happen Kathy, and it will be too late to do anything about it, if no-one is going to listen to us now. I'm sure this is the government's agenda, though I'm not so sure they'll be happy to pay for it and will conveniently overlook the fact that rents will be higher. It's the opposition parties and housing charities I am scunnered with, for just naively jumping on the populist bandwagon of blaming private landlords for everything and allowing the Tories to railroad all these changes through.

by Gary Dully

0:33 AM, 1st December 2015, About 6 years ago

In Liverpool, A new development of student let's from the corporates is being rammed throughout the city. just one of them boasts 398 en-suite rooms for students and they offer a range of prices from Bronze £128pw en-suite for 44 weeks to Platinum studios £160pw.

My rooms go at £70pw and they aren't ensuite.

This city is going to be flooded with such accommodation and it's already causing a stir amongst residents in the papers.

My point being is that the corporates will be bringing massive developments on-stream in a few months and the competition will be wreak havoc to the local landlords. Who still haven't paid for Liverpools mandatory licensing scheme yet.

There are 3000 units being built for next year and a total of 25,000 by 2017 and 35,000 by 2020 on top of the halls of residence and current housing stock.

The city planners are mental morons for letting this pass planning.

The room sizes and all other changes affecting landlords such as clause 24 would suggest that the writing is on the wall for private landlords in this market.

We appear to be under estimating the potential changes coming, not just because of room sizes.

by Paul Shears

3:05 AM, 1st December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "allan wadsworth" at "30/11/2015 - 17:12":

Well let me tell you the tale of two houses in the same road. My road.
One is a large detached house which I own and which has four tenants who find and initially sanction any replacement tenant. The rent on this house is £360 per room and there has not been one night void in six years despite all the tenants having changed three times but only one tenant at a time.
It has parking for three large vans and a double garage.
The second house is terraced and half the size of the above property and had a couple living in it for 23 years and they described it as a bit cramped for a couple. It had three bedrooms, permanent damp in one bedroom, no garage and parking for one car.
Now, thanks to a ruthless landlord profiteering from the desperate, what was the lounge is now split into two bedrooms via the addition of a thin stud wall. Five strangers are crammed into it who constantly leave and get replaced by the landlord. The rent is £500 to £550 per room. So that is roughly £2,625 per month. There is a tiny kitchen and tiny bathroom shared by all five people.
This is an astronomical rent for a tiny room by the standards of the area! No room is bigger that 10 feet X 10 feet. Most are smaller.
The only communal space for these five adults is the car port which has been turned into a "room" by adding two walls and a front door. This is just big enough for a two seat settee, a table with two chairs and enough space to squeeze by when someone enters the house by the new front door.
There is absolutely no excuse for this behaviour. This is blatant exploitation and greed.
We have 99% objection in the road to this but to no avail. It appears that the council are powerless to stop this.
Is my rent charge low? Well slightly but overall I certainly have no complaints.
In ten years I have not seen anyone begging or sleeping on the streets round here. But we do have a nigh shelter for the homeless.

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