Browsing all articles from February, 2023

Council wins £1m funding for HMO improvements

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As part of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (DLUHC) “levelling up” fund the money is to be used by the council to “work proactively and engage with landlords”, in particular with those landlords who rent out houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and own converted flats.

Without stating this openly, the implication is that the council believes these are the properties where standards are likely to be below legal standards. The council has said it believes that privately rented homes are “a vital part of the housing mix, making up almost 20% of the housing in Cornwall.” but wants to encourage landlords to improve living standards for their tenants where necessary.

Cllr Olly Monk, with responsibilities for housing and planning has said:

“Residents are right to expect a decent home. There are many, many good and responsible private landlords out there who value their tenants and ensure that the home they rent out is of a decent standard.

“We are in no way tarring everyone with the same brush, but we also know from the complaints we receive and the enforcement action we have a duty to take, that there are properties being rented out that fall short of the required standard.

“We want to work with those landlords to improve the homes they rent out so that residents who live in them can feel assured that they are being listened to and action is being taken.”

What is an HMO?

The Housing Act 2004’s definition of a house in multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as a building falling within one of the following categories:

  • any building or flat where two or more households share a basic amenity. This can be a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • a converted building not entirely comprised of self-contained flats
  • some converted blocks of flats where the standard of the conversion does not meet the relevant building standards and fewer than two-thirds of the flats are owner-occupied
  • a building that has been declared an HMO by the local authority

The rules are quite complex and obviously given this last point, there is some flexibility on the HMO designation by the local authority.

This HMO designation applies to the most common type of HMO, shared houses by more than one household, such as students, holiday workers, and purpose-built bedsit accommodation. It may also apply to a hostel if the accommodation does not entirely comprise of self-contained units.

Mandatory Licensing for some HMOs

Mandatory licensing applies to HMOs where they are occupied by five or more persons living in two or more separate households. Children of any age also contribute to the number of occupants. Otherwise smaller HMOs may or may not be licensable, but some are under local authority discretionary or additional licencing schemes – you should check with your local authority.

Mandatory licencing comes under the The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 as amended for room sizes and waste disposal in 2018

All licenced HMOs must have:

  • a current gas safety certificate if there is a gas supply
  • all electrical appliances and furniture supplied must comply to regulations and be maintained in a safe condition
  • smoke alarms must be provided for each storey of the property containing living accommodation and maintained in working order
  • the landlord must declare on demand, to the local authority, the safety of electrical appliances, furniture and condition and positioning of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • occupants must be given a written statement of the terms of occupancy
  • a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in every room used as living accommodation in which there is a fixed combustion appliance.
  • after 1 October 2018 minimum size requirements apply to all rooms used as ‘sleeping accommodation and landlords must ensure that no room is used by more than number of persons specified in the licence.
  • There are also rules relating to the storing and disposal of household waste generated by HMOs.

A Landlord’s Guide to Standards in houses in multiple occupation (HMO) (pdf download)

How is the Cornwall “levelling up” funding to be used?

The funding will be used initially to gather information about the conditions in certain groups of privately rented properties, HMOs being the target group.

The Council will then engage with these landlords in order to work with them to improve any poor living conditions. It is recognised that some private renting tenants in Cornwall are living in sub-standard accommodation. It is anticipated that some cases may need to involve formal enforcement action.

Some HMOs in Cornwall are linked to commercial premises including restaurants, takeaways, hotels and resorts and some contain poorly converted self-contained flats existing within tourist areas and areas of high deprivation.

Cllr Monk has said that:

“The private rented sector is very important in providing much needed housing however, we have a duty of care to residents and the council is committed to driving an improvement in standards.”

The Council’s project therefore will attempt to identify these specific types of properties in need of further attention, followed by an assessment of how best to engage with landlords to raise standards.

Cllr Monk added:

“This is about finding new ways to identify properties where our intervention is most needed and then to engage with landlords to make sure they are aware of their responsibilities and helping them to ensure their properties meet expectations. We are here to help both tenants and landlords.

“This additional funding will allow the Council to do more than just fulfil our statutory obligations such as HMO Licensing and responding to complaints from those facing hazardous property conditions.”

HMO regulations are complex and regulations change on a regular basis, so always check with the local authority concerned regarding the current legal requirements for your house in multiple occupation

View Full Article: Council wins £1m funding for HMO improvements


Bailiffs accused of confusing vulnerable tenants with ‘lookalike’ police outfits

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Private bailiffs dressed in stab vests, wearing bodycams and driving white vans covered in fluorescent police-style trim have been accused of confusing vulnerable tenants, a housing charity warns.

Safer Renting is worried it is becoming a growing problem after stepping in during two incidents involving S&K Property Enforcement.

Bailiffs arrived at the home of a charity worker’s house in London while she was at her office and her five children were alone, telling her to leave the property.

Although her landlord had never pursued an official court order, he had previously cut off her heating and water in an attempt to evict her. The charity workers managed to convince the firm to leave after a two-hour stand-off.

Safer Renting has also helped another tenant who got a visit from S&K, sporting the same uniforms and fluorescent vans. He had withheld rent after years of failing to get his landlord to repair a raft of problems.

Safer Renting caseworker John-Luke Bolton tells LandlordZONE that both incidents involved rent-to-rent arrangements which can make it difficult to work out who is responsible.


“The enforcement company turns up saying that someone doesn’t have the right to be there, but when a property owner sub-lets, they don’t always know who the landlord is that’s letting to tenants,” he explains. “We think owners should be directly liable for any activities.”

Bolton acknowledges that while officers in these cases didn’t claim to be police, he believes their outfits and set-up could confuse a frightened tenant who isn’t fully informed – and confused his own staff attending the incidents.

“Tenants should question why they are there if they don’t have a court order,” he adds.


A spokesman for S&K tells Novara Media that agents always identify themselves while setting out their reasons for attendance.

It denies its agents have ever identified or misrepresented themselves as police officers, or acted in a manner that would suggest they were police officers. “Our staff wear uniforms which clearly identify them as enforcement agents,” he says. “The same applies to all vehicles used.”

Read more about evictions.

Picture credit: Stock/Shutterstock

View Full Article: Bailiffs accused of confusing vulnerable tenants with ‘lookalike’ police outfits


MPs say landlords who don’t upgrade homes should pay higher mortgages

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A cross-party group of MPs and peers has suggested that landlords who don’t upgrade their properties should be liable for mortgage penalties.

The All-Party Group on a Green New Deal believes there should be a 1% mortgage interest rate premium levied on all buy-to-let properties with an EPC below band C which would be fully refundable if the standard was reached within three years.

Its new report – Local Edge, an inquiry into climate politics and the economics of recovery – argues for a combination of robust, top-down policies on green issues including localised power generation, food and transport schemes to help the UK meet the first of its major net zero targets: reducing carbon emissions by 68% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The group also suggests that the government’s proposals for a minimum standard of EPC C for new tenancies from 2025, and existing tenancies from 2028, should be introduced through the Energy Bill and turned into law.

Poor EPCs

Dan Lee

Leading mortgage broker, Dan Lee (pictured) of Legacy Financial Consultants, has previously warned that lenders are suspending landlords’ mortgage applications when surveyors flag up poor EPCs. Buy-to-let mortgage firms are required to check if a property has the minimum legal EPC before lending via the government’s digital service.

The PRS is a long way from preparing for the imminent energy efficiency shake-up as data compiled for property data platform LandTech showed that 64% of private rental properties would currently fail to reach an EPC rating of C.

Meanwhile, most landlords are still in the dark about EPC changes, including 57% of those with a single property and 77% with four or more properties in their portfolio, according to Market Financial Solutions.

View Full Article: MPs say landlords who don’t upgrade homes should pay higher mortgages


NEW: Competition watchdog to probe ‘consumer rights’ within rental market

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The UK’s competition watchdog is to launch an investigation into consumer rights for those rent their homes and the activities of landlords and letting agents.

This announcement, which has been made by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), reveals that it intends to shed light on the experience of renters and explore whether more could be done to “help landlords and intermediaries to understand their obligations”.

Its consumer enforcement work in housing will focus on tenant’s experiences of finding somewhere to live, renting a property and moving between homes.

The CMA will also look at the relationships between tenants and landlords and role of intermediaries such as letting agents.

The initiative will run alongside a probe into the UK’s house building sector.

Biggest issues

“The quality and cost of housing is one of the biggest issues facing the country,” says Sarah Cardell (main picture), Chief Executive of the CMA.

Over the last few years, the CMA delivered real change for leaseholders, with tens of thousands of homeowners receiving refunds after being overcharged unfair ground rents.

“With that work nearly finished, we’re now looking to probe in more detail two further areas – the housebuilding and the rental sectors.

Competition issues

“If there are competition issues holding back house building in Britain then we need to find them. But we also need to be realistic that more competition alone won’t unlock a house building boom.

“In the same vein, we want to explore the experiences people have of the rental sector and whether there are issues here that the CMA can help with.

“We will of course be guided by the evidence, but if we find competition or consumer protection concerns we are prepared to take the steps necessary to address them.”

Read more stories about the CMA.

View Full Article: NEW: Competition watchdog to probe ‘consumer rights’ within rental market


REPORT: Landlords spend £34,000 over lifetime maintaining a property

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A landlord will need to carry out repair or maintenance work on a buy-to-let property 72 times during their ownership, costing them more than £34,000, it has been revealed.

Research by lettings and estate agent Benham and Reeves found that while pests are the most common maintenance task during the typical nine-year ownership, roofing repairs will be the most costly, adding up to £3,494.

While a landlord is likely to replace or repair white goods just five times during this time – the lowest frequency of all repair tasks analysed – they rank as the second largest overall maintenance cost at £3,231.

Paint job

New paint jobs rank as the third largest total cost associated with maintaining a buy-to-let at £2,992 on average, but when it comes to the most persistent problems, household pests rank top. Benham and Reeves estimates that a landlord will have to fund pest control as many as eight times, costing them £2,940 in the process.

Mould or damp is also a headache for many and while it is one of the least expensive repairs to make at £2,752 in total, the average landlord will need to carry out mould maintenance about seven times.

marc grundherr CGT

Director Marc von Grundherr (pictured) says: “Over the course of the ownership lifespan, these costs do little to damage the great returns of property investment, but would-be landlords do need to make sure they have enough cash flow available to cover maintenance jobs as and when they arise, while safe in the knowledge that, over time, those costs will be recouped.”

View Full Article: REPORT: Landlords spend £34,000 over lifetime maintaining a property


Plagues of pests are the most common maintenance issue for landlords

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Landlords will have to carry out maintenance or repair work on a buy-to-let property 72 times during their ownership – costing them more than £34,000, research reveals.

And, according to lettings and estate agent, Benham and Reeves, the most common maintenance issue facing landlords are plagues of pests.

View Full Article: Plagues of pests are the most common maintenance issue for landlords


EPC and banning Section 21?

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Hello, I know I may be jumping the gun somewhat but if the proposed minimum EPC rules are sanctioned, and also a ban on Section 21 comes into force, what are the likely outcomes?

We will be able to evict on EPC grounds?

View Full Article: EPC and banning Section 21?


Most tenants want to own – but know this won’t happen in 2023

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A survey has revealed that 83% of renters want to buy their own home but more than 75% believe that they won’t be able to do so in 2023.

Unsurprisingly, the main reason for 54% is an inability to save for a deposit.

View Full Article: Most tenants want to own – but know this won’t happen in 2023


‘Why won’t Government regulate agents like it does social housing managers?’

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Property expert Kate Faulkner (main pic) says new rules to introduce professional qualifications for social housing managers are a “slap in the face for the PRS” after years of lobbying for similar standards.

The government has announced that about 25,000 managers will now need a housing management qualification equivalent to a Level 4 or 5 Certificate or Diploma in Housing, or a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing following changes to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, in a bid to protect tenants and raise standards in the sector.

Faulkner, who runs, says she has been begging housing ministers to accept Regulation of Property Agents proposals for licensing and qualifications, to no avail.

“Why should a social tenant be treated differently to a private one? I’ve no idea why the government won’t listen – perhaps they worry that agents would put their fees up, but it would make a massive difference,” she tells LandlordZONE.

“The government is inadvertently supporting bad agents by not regulating, as these agents have to compete with the bad guys who undercut them.”

The government believes the move will bring social housing more closely into line with other sectors providing front line services, including social work, teaching, and health and care services.

Tough new powers

Under the rules, the regulator will also get tough new powers, allowing it to enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice and to make emergency repairs – with landlords footing the bill.

It follows Awaab’s Law, forcing social landlords to fix damp and mould within strict time limits. Any landlord who fails to meet the requirements could receive an unlimited fine.

michael gove

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove, says many social housing residents are not receiving the service or respect they deserve. He adds: “The changes we are delivering today will make sure social housing managers across the country have the right skills and experience to deliver an excellent service and drive up standards across the board.”

View Full Article: ‘Why won’t Government regulate agents like it does social housing managers?’


Official £3 million evictions mediation service ‘offered too late’ to landlords

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A paltry nine cases were mediated in the government’s pilot Rental Mediation Service – nowhere near the 3,000 cases it expected, it has been revealed.

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Minister of Justice had hoped that the pilot, which offered tenants and landlords a free ‘anti adversarial’ mediation service to prevent them going to court, would reduce the number of evictions taking place.

But the scheme, which was operated by The Society of Mediators and lasted nine months ending in October 2021, is revealed to have received very low levels of referral.

An official review of the scheme pinpoints several reasons for this low take-up, the key one being that mediation was offered too late in the evictions process, by which time landlords and tenants are often in conflict and taking entrenched positions.

Key to success

Mike Morgan (pictured), whose organisation the PRS currently operates its own tenancy mediation service in partnership with the NRLA, says offering parties help early on in the process is the key to success.

“Our service can be offered even before a landlord serves notice to a tenant,” he says.

“And we ensure that the process is quick and effective, takes place as early as possible, appears impartial to both sides and is seen to offer expert advice and support.

“Mediation is not only useful for seeking possession as an alternative to using the courts.  Early intervention can also reach an agreed rent repayment plan, avoiding future arrears, and preserving the landlord tenant-relationship.”


The official review makes similar points, highlighting how tenants tend to be disengaged with the process once an eviction notice has been served.

It says: “Attempts at earlier dispute resolution should seek to preserve goodwill between tenants and landlords, follow a process that is fair and balanced between the parties, and take account of the broader contextual challenges that tenants face – such as poverty, mental health, accessing benefits for example – which are better able to be resolved before a court claim is made”.

Relatively good

The report is not entirely critical, pointing out that when resolution is used appropriately, the chances of reaching an agreement were ‘relatively good’.

But overall the report said the Government’s mediation service faced significant headwinds.

Those involved in the process suggested that mediation did not always deliver an agreement that aligned with legal requirements, or that there was a lack of awareness of mediation and what it could offer, while some duty advisers were reluctant to refer clients because they were not fully aware of how the process would work. Others believed an allotted hour was not enough time to carry out mediation properly.

julie james

Mediation expert Julie Ford (pictured) tells LandlordZONE: “The key points highlighted in the pilot simply reinforce what we have always said: mediation provides positive outcomes when it is engaged in as early into a dispute as possible, ideally before notice is even served.”

She adds: “I agree that there is little or no awareness about mediation and the empowering outcomes it can achieve. Maybe a public campaign is the answer.”

Read the report in full.

View Full Article: Official £3 million evictions mediation service ‘offered too late’ to landlords




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