Selective Licencing – 1 room is 10cm too small?

Selective Licencing – 1 room is 10cm too small?

9:21 AM, 6th December 2019, About 3 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.

Stephanie



Comments

MasterG

12:07 PM, 6th December 2019, About 3 years ago

Just move the door out 1cm.

homemaker

14:01 PM, 6th December 2019, About 3 years ago

Stephanie, if I were you I would challenge this with a more senior officer or the responsible Portfolio Councillor for Housing etc. The local authority must be able to justify its position if it is unwilling to license your property. Potentially this is a difficult situation for the la bearing in mind that the bedroom is not 'illegal' but according to the standards not licensable. Assuming that you are using the property in the original format and not using communal space as a bedroom there will as pointed out above be many similar properties still under la ownership and the rooms which were built as bedrooms will still be occupied in that way albeit probably by a single household. The purpose of licensing is to apply reasonable standards for occupiers and there has to be a cut off point but your rooms are so close to the specified standard that you would hope for some discretion. I believe many local authorities are desperately short of experienced and qualified staff and I think it is worth challenging any decision that doesn't seem to make sense, particularly when the outcome is to propose making someone homeless.
In practical terms with the expected removal of section 21 what would be the grounds for serving notice under section 8 in future? As it is I am unclear how you can proceed without giving notice to the whole group.

Rob Crawford

14:48 PM, 6th December 2019, About 3 years ago

First check that the council is applying the same room size restrictions as required by law. Some councils are applying a larger room size requirement that you could possibly appeal against. Did they measure between skirting boards, if so removing the skirting boards would generate the additional space required. Alternatively, if this is a tower block and many other rooms/landlords are in the same situation, appeal to the council with a letter that states x number of tenants will become homeless. If you get a nasty response get the local press involved. See what happens! If they still demand that the room needs to be enlarged, you will need to request sufficient time to do the job "post acceptance by the council of the planned work". Hopefully it's a stud wall! Unfortunately as the room size is written in law some councils are not given any leeway on room size.

Ian Narbeth View Profile

16:50 PM, 6th December 2019, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by REB at 06/12/2019 - 11:17
There are minimum room sizes for HMOs. They are different from lets of whole houses where perhaps a child's bedroom is below 6.5 square metres. It is comparatively easy to move stud walls in a modern house. Another factor is that if there is a fitted wardrobe the Council don't count it. I know I would rather have a 6.4 sqm room with a fitted wardrobe than a 6.5 sqm room without where the wardrobe takes up over 0.5sqm of space but that's the way the Councils measure.

Ross Tulloch

17:12 PM, 6th December 2019, About 3 years ago

As I understand it the 6.51 m is not something they can take a view on. 20% of our portfolio had rooms too small so we simply evicted everybody and sold the properties off. Sad because the main loser as always with legislation like this that hasn’t been thought about is always the tenant. On another property we have in Southwark we had no living room so the requirement was 10 m for a single person minimum. I took them to tribunal because one of them was 8.51 m. Before the tribunal we had a mediation meeting and I told them that they would lose because anybody with an ounce of common sense would not say that this perfectly habitable room had to remain empty permanently. After some weeks they decided to give in to me and so I have permission.

Michael Barnes

0:07 AM, 7th December 2019, About 3 years ago

Did the tenancy start before the conditions were introduced?

It is my understanding that licence conditions cannot affect existing tenancies that meet central government legislation.

Also this link may be relevant: https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2018/10/who-lives-in-a-shared-home-like-this/?highlight=%22who%20lives%20in%20a%22

Mick Roberts

9:31 AM, 7th December 2019, About 3 years ago

We had the same in Nottingham at the beginning of Licensing.

The second in command of Licensing said We will have 18 months to give the tenant time to find somewhere where she is not deemed as overcrowding. I worked out approx 40% of my houses have 'too small' rooms per new October 2015 regs/rules.
I said to the homeless section, When this woman with 4 kids comes down here who is so grateful that their youngest kid has got their own room, when she comes down & says I've been kicked out cause Nottingham http://www.selectivelicensingtruth.co.uk says my bedrooms too small, what are u going to do Miss Nottingham Council Homeless section?
They said they gonna ring me up & say Mick, have u got any houses for this woman? And then they gonna' assist her in putting her in one of my other maybe smaller houses & may also pay her deposit & rent up front. You couldn't make it up. Council no joined up thinking by those in Licensing.

Ross says it perfectly, I'll leave it empty then. And u know the tenant ain't gonna' leave a room empty. Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

On the other side, the Council houses are actually noting down their smaller size bedrooms that they cannot class as a bedroom, so they can get the tenant out of paying bedroom tax. Again no joined up thinking with Govt.

Why not get tenants to write in saying They happy as they are there? I got that unofficially from the sensible people in Licensing, they said if tenant wishes to stay, we have to listen to that.

Prakash Tanna

10:11 AM, 7th December 2019, About 3 years ago

I'm surprised they are asking you to vacate the smaller room and make that person homeless, am sure that conflicts with other housing policies? My experience with other councils is that they are happy for the existing tenant to stay in situ but when that person moves out it cannot be re-let to somebody else until the room size is increased.

Queen Victoria

10:16 AM, 7th December 2019, About 3 years ago

I have similar in a 3 bed student hmo. I think I can solve it by moving the door outwards. I managed to negotiate for the date this need to be achieved by to be 1st September 2020 when the next tenancy begins. This saves me having me having to disturb the current tenants. May be worth seeing if you can get movement on the date if not on the requirement itself.

Ross Tulloch

12:10 PM, 7th December 2019, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Prakash Tanna at 07/12/2019 - 10:11
In my experience they do not ask for the room to be vacated, but you cannot re-let. So they do not make anyone homeless, but are happy for homeless on the streets (legal) rather than comfortably in a room that someone who is not looking at the big picture considers too small. Pathetic of course

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