Selective Licencing – 1 room is 10cm too small?

Selective Licencing – 1 room is 10cm too small?

9:21 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago 36

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Hello fellow landlords, I have a small portfolio of properties in Tower Hamlets. They introduced an Additional Licencing scheme throughout the borough in April. I’m just now starting to get the notices back and find that 3 of my 3-bed properties are only licence-able as 2-bed properties. 2 are with rooms 6square meters (51cm squared too small) and the other is 6.4 square meters, making it just 11 square cm too small for a habitable room.

What are other landlords doing in these situations?

My options are :

1. Take it on as a two bed and take the hit in reducing the rent
2. Somehow move the bedroom wall, stealing 10cm squared from the double bedroom behind it, thereby making the room big enough. (technically this could require permission from the council who are the freeholders, sigh).
3. Sell the property and just keep the ones in the portfolio that have been granted a licence and have rooms the right size.

The housing officer indicated, after some prodding, that other landlords were moving walls to make their smaller bedrooms compliant. These are not houses we are talking about. Tower Hamlets is predominantly ex-council flats, with the majority of their stock being a typical 3 bedroom maisonette with the 3rd bedroom being between 6 and 6.8 square meters.

A LOT of bedrooms are going to be deemed ‘illegal’ from this legislation, therefore a lot of lower budget tenants are going to be left with less choice in this borough.

The Issuing Authority is also telling me that I need to issue a notice to quit on the person in the ‘illegal’ bedroom. As my tenants came to me as a group, and not on individual contracts, I am unable to just kick that person out. Am I?

I was hoping to leave the whole group in situ until their contract expires. but the impression I get from the wording of the licence is that they expect me to get rid of that individual immediately.

If you have any advice on how to proceed, I would appreciate your help and candid opinion.


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10:23 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

Move the wall. It will be a pain if they are brick but simple if they are studwork. But then you are future proofed

Paul McCarthy

10:32 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

It's ridiculous. The council can have discretion if the difference is minimal... they obviously choose not to be!

Yvette Newbury

10:33 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

When Newham introduced their licensing consultation Southwark saw a huge influx of tenants from that area. Now that Tower Hamlets is enforcing licenses Southwark are likely to see the same influx again. The 3 beds in Southwark have a larger 3rd bedroom plus more storage space. It is just a fluke of how they were built at the time.

Alison King

10:34 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

Other landlords I'm aware of are moving the wall. You don't have to move the whole thing, just create an alcove big enough to satisfy the requirement, but don't put a fitted wardrobe in there as that will be not be classed as livable space. It would be worth getting a builder quote and council permission in any case, and you may find the tenants would rather put up with the inconvenience of the works than lose their home.

Darren Peters

10:42 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

Do an analysis of whether you can sell and buy a small freehold house outside London in a commuter town. While you might take a hit in the short term, the property you purchase might give you uplift angles and more control of the repairs and maintenance.

Also if your leasehold is approaching 81 years, factor in the additional cost of getting the extension.


10:42 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

In the middle of a housing crisis you take property out of circulation on a minor technicality. You could not make it up!

How about removing the plaster and leaving the studwork exposed, would certainly work with the 11 sq cm room? Daft solution but needs must when the jobsworth devil drives.

Robert M

10:53 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

Is the Council requirement lawful? I thought the legislation about room sizes only applied to those HMOs that fell under mandatory licencing, i.e. 5 or more residents. Can the Council enforce their own criteria for smaller HMOs? (wasn't there a ruling a few months back that Councils cannot apply their own criteria unless the property is licensable? - I presumed this was mandatory licensable, not selective/additional licencing? - I think it was a landlord association on the South Coast somewhere that won that case?).

If the Council requirements are lawful, then as already suggested, move the stud walls or build an alcove. (or if you have fitted wardrobes, remove these).


11:02 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

Good suggestions, the only one not mentioned is to use gallows brackets and remove a chimney breast (If this is applicable)


11:13 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

I had the same situation and moved the door way back into the hallway. So now some of the hallway is part of the bedroom which I put hooks and a long shelf down. Obviously you may not have a hallway to do this. In our case moving a doorway was a lot less work than moving a wall.


11:17 AM, 6th December 2019, About 4 years ago

I suggest before you start work you write formally to your local councillor and ask if the council is evicting its own tenants in similar/identical? 3 bed properties that remain in council ownership

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