Will helping mean prosecution by Councils?

Will helping mean prosecution by Councils?

17:18 PM, 17th March 2022, About 2 months ago 5

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Will helping Ukrainian refugees lead to thousands of homeowners and renters being prosecuted by councils for unlicensed HMOs (Like councils prosecuted those who housed the homeless during Covid)?

Thousands of people appear to be being set up for prosecution by uncaring and revenue greedy councils on the back of the UK response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. “Couldn’t possibly happen,” we hear you say.  Sadly, many councils have ‘previous’ on this.

Here’s the problem:  Under the Government’s draconian legislation on the management and licensing of HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation), the Housing Act of 2004 declared that any rental property with three or more occupants (including children) would henceforth be designated as an HMO unless ALL the occupants were all related by blood or sexual union.

In a homeowner situation, it’s slightly different.  You are permitted two lodgers, but the second you have three or more lodgers (and that includes children) your house immediately becomes an HMO. So, if any homeowner takes in three refugees from Ukraine, then they are 99% certain to create an HMO – with disastrous consequences. If they are renters, then just one refugee creates an HMO.

Hundreds, if not thousands of good people doing their bit to help the poor displaced Ukrainians are going to become HMO landlords without knowing it, and the second your property becomes an HMO you’ll be breaking the law in ways you ‘ve never imagined.:

  1. You are immediately legally bound by the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations (England) 2006 as amended.

These have requirements for fire doors and fire alarms that your property almost certainly will not have.

The standard Council fine for not meeting this under Regulation 4 of the HMO regulations is £28,000!

There will be many other aspects of the HMO Management Regulations that these homes will not meet.

At Landlords Licensing & Defence where we assist accidental landlords and others with these situations the average fine we see is £50,000 or more.

  1. If the property is in a council area that has an adopted ‘additional licensing’ every HMO needs to be licensed whether it is three occupants or 30 occupants. The average fine for not having an additional licence is £12-15,000.
  2. If the property has five occupants or more it requires a mandatory HMO licence.  Again, the average fine for not having this licence is £15,000.
  3. And, if all the above is not enough, your property will automatically change its Planning Permission class from ‘C3 residential’ to ‘C4 small HMO’ which only allows up to 6 occupants.

However, if you’ve now got seven or more occupants (adults and children) after you’ve taken in a distressed Ukrainian family, then you’re in breach of planning too.

  1. Worse still, you’re in trouble if your property is in a council area where they have made an ‘Article 4 Direction’ to remove the automatic change of C3 residential to C4 small HMO (under what is known as permitted development).

Under Article 4 direction, you are not permitted to change your property from a family home to a two or more family home without full planning permission.  (Which is usually impossible to obtain, because they brought in the Article 4 direction to stop HMOs!)

So immediately you’re in breach of planning and if they enforce against you, they are likely to use the Proceeds of Crime Act to take away any ‘financial’ gain you had from your illegal HMO.  So there goes your £350 a month and a lot more besides in fines.

But the councils will let us off

History is not on your side. Councils have a long and disgusting history of placing homeless people with landlords and the homeless department ‘forgetting’ to tell the landlord they will need an HMO licence, and very expensive upgrades to fire doors, fire alarms and many other things.

Did I mention that the Council gets to keep all the money from the fines it enforces? One could imagine corruption occurring.

So a year later, (because this maximises their corrupt-like revenue take) along comes a different Council department called ‘housing enforcement’ and not only issues a £12-15,000 fine for not having an HMO licence, they also issue fines of an average of £50,000 for failures under the HMO Management Regulations.

Then, in the case of all those homeless people for whom the Council was paying the rent during Covid through housing allowance, the Councils issued a Rent Repayment Order and this gives them back ALL the rent they paid the landlord over the 12 month period.

The Councils maxed out with this cynical strategy over the COVID lockdowns where they persuaded empty hotels and B&Bs to take in homeless people and then did exactly this ‘fine and claw back’ strategy bringing many of these businesses to the point of bankruptcy.

You can read about one example here: https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/sefton-council-entraps-hotel-landlord-into-providing-free-emergency-accommodation-to-their-homeless/

No Pity

We see councils do this on a daily basis to accidental HMO landlords where their tenants have kindly ‘let a mate move in’ when their relationship broke up. The Councils have no pity.  They are only interested in revenue.

They are rapidly replacing the old-guard of pragmatic housing officers with young bullies called housing enforcement officers.

So, will Councils respect the families helping out the poor Ukrainians?

I’d like to say yes – but all the evidence is to the opposite. And here’s why:

  • The Housing Act 2004 definition of HMO has not been suspended.  So, you’ll be breaching criminal laws.
  • The requirement to meet the HMO Management Regulations has not been suspended.  So, you’ll be breaching criminal law.
  • The requirement for Licensing of HMOs has not been suspended, so you’ll be breaching criminal law.
  • The Article 4 direction requirements for HMO Planning have not been suspended, so you’ll be breaching planning law.
  • Council Housing Enforcement officers are taught that all these criminal offences are ‘strict liability’ and their only job is to maximise fine revenue.
  • Council track record is somewhere between cynical and completely corrupt.

Anyone who becomes an unsuspecting HMO landlord by helping out, and then gets enforcement action from the Council should get an expert professional help immediately from Landlord Licencing & Defence or our competitors.  Do not go to a high street solicitor – they don’t understand the enforcement process relating to the Housing Act and Planning Law sufficiently.



Comments

by Blodwyn

17:13 PM, 18th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Publicity?

by Mike

20:55 PM, 18th March 2022, About 2 months ago

The answer is very simple, in my house I can sleep or put as many people as I can accomodate, and they do not have to be blood related to me, they can be friends, or whoever, including Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, for as long as they do not pay any rent, or contribute towards any running costs, or as long as you do not charge them a penny for anything, not even a single grain of rice, then you are NOT running an HMO, or breaking any housing law, the Government will pay you "Thank You" money as a good will gesture saving them thousands if were they to be put up in hotels or temporary shelters for refugees, so you do not have to worry about licensing or be scared of local councils bullying you. This is my take on it. That "Thank You" money is from the Government and not from the refugees, so its yours to spend as you wish, it will certainly come handy to pay stupidly huge energy bills. You still got to heat your home even if you do not have refugees living with you, and needless to say the extra strain it will put of your home and use of more water and gas for cooking and lighting, so that money will pay for higher petrol prices too.

by Mike

21:16 PM, 18th March 2022, About 2 months ago

BTW, the "Tank You" money is not being considered as any form of Rent payment, so no one can snatch it back under any circumstances unless the refugees had left of their own accord and you continued to receive the payments, when you were not entitled. Again its my take on this, not official view.

by Mick Roberts

11:41 AM, 19th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Yes Des & Phil,
U echo my words with the Council asking us to give their people some houses, then the same council, different department coming to punish & fine us 3 years later for a misdemeanour that they knew that kind of tenant did.

Which is why I did a similar post few days ago:
https://www.property118.com/can-i-really-house-the-ukrainian-people-i-want-to-however/

by DSR

10:12 AM, 22nd March 2022, About 2 months ago

Wonder if Rishi will term the 'home a refugee' Baldrick-esque plan as a cost of living saving measure in the Spring review today?

Offer - Receive a 'no catch' £350 a month from the government towards the cost of living/energy/petrol hikes etc in exchange for temporarily housing a refugee?

Reality - we have no appetite to sort any of this out and we have no plans to do so either so we need to dump this at someone else's door...., but its a great PR as it looks like we are doing something so that's all good. Tick )


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