Council Wins £1m Funding For HMO Improvements

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

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