Houses in multiple occupation

This is a technical post on the new legislation about Houses in Multiple Occupation. If you’re not interested in HMOs –stop reading now, just as long as you are certain that none of the properties you are responsible for won’t come under the new law.

If you are interested in HMOs – keep reading.

The government has released a guide for local authority staff who will be responsible for enforcing the new legislation on HMOs. It’s a publically available document on Gov.UK that any one can read. I had intended to write a short summary of the guide, picking out key points, but I think that any HMO landlord will probably find it worthwhile to see the whole thing.

That does get me out of doing some work for you – but the guide is quite short and clear. So please do have a look.  You can find it here

It covers everything just about everything you need to know but one thought to take away – and I’ve copy and pasted directly from the guide . . .

“Landlords of HMOs that fall under the new definition will be committing a criminal offence if they fail to apply for a licence or a temporary exemption by 1 October 2018.”

Oliver

 

 

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Official government advice for landlords and contacting our Benefits Overpayments team

A double post –

 
There is a new government publication available on gov.uk which gives basic advice to landlords. It’s called ‘How to Let.’

How to let

It’s a good one. It’s short and clearly written with useful links. You can find it here.

 
If you are regular reader of the blog – you should already be familiar with most, if not all of its contents. We have covered the lot just about, in the blog. (Please excuse me for a bit of self-congratulation). But I would still recommend having a look; it has some useful reminders and everything is in one place.

 
It accompanies the How to Rent pamphlet that all landlords must give to tenants. Don’t forget (something else we have blogged about) that if you have failed to give a tenant a copy of ‘How to Rent,’ you might be legally prevented from serving them a section 21 notice to end the tenancy.

 
My second subject today . . . Not exciting, but I need to mention – overpayments. The contact details for Housing Benefit overpayments have changed. This leaflet tells you how to contact Housing Benefits about an overpayment and how you can make a payment.

 
Oliver

Extension to HMO Licensing: Landlords need to be ready

House

If you are the landlord of a House of Multiple Occupation, or HMO, you should know that the government has extended the licensing requirements. Meaning a lot more HMOs will need licenses when the new rules take effect in October. And the old rule that only HMOs with three or more storeys needed a license has gone. An HMO could be in a bungalow and still need a licence!

 
The official legislation is here but if you want something more readable see the websites of any of the professional landlord organisations. We hope have more information up on our own website soon about who does or doesn’t need a license. In the mean-time, the current fees for licensing in Sandwell. (Note the discounts members of the Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme, the National Landlords Association , or the Residential Landlords Association.

HMO Landlord Licence fees

If you have a property that doesn’t currently need a license, but will do so from when the new rules in, in October 2018 – you can apply now. If you make your payment early, it won’t cost you anything extra as it will only need to be renewed in October 2019. You can find the application form here. You haven’t got long to get your application(s) in and you should certainly be thinking about license costs in your financial planning now. There are heavy fines for not having a license when you should!

 
Please look out for more posts on this subject.

 
Oliver

Pop-up brothels, slavery and landlords.

Sorry to write about such a distasteful subject, but this is something landlords need to look out for. There is a very good article in this week’s Spectator magazine by a landlord who let his property in good faith, to what he thought were ordinary tenants, only to find they had converted it into a ‘pop-up’brothel. You can find the story here.

 
Sadly, we have had our own examples of this occurring in Sandwell very recently. We are quite certain there are others just waiting to be discovered. Apart from the sex industry, we know that most of the other forms of exploitation that make up modern day slavery can be found in our area (see earlier posts here) and very often, based in ordinary privately rented flats and houses.

 
In the Spectator story, the apparently nice, respectable tenants the landlord let his flat to, turned out to be linked to serious organised crime. He had been far too trusting. You can never protect yourself completely against being taken in like this – but there are some things you can do. Make sure you get tenant references and then – carefully check those references are genuine. Be wary of anyone who offers to pay you rent several months in advance. That can often mean they want to keep you well away from the property because they are planning a use they want to keep hidden.

 
So make sure you have a mid-term inspection clause in the tenancy agreement to give you at least some access to the property and let the tenant know you intend to stick to it. Bear in mind that depending on the tenancy length and how soon you can reasonably ask for our first inspection, real problems might have already occurred before you can actually get in. As the name suggests, pop-up brothels come and go very quickly, by the time of your inspection, the damage might be done.

 
As profit margins can be high – culprits might be happy to cut and run after only a month a two and write off any rent they have paid in advance. You might find it a good idea to make friends with your property’s neighbours and ask them to let you know if they become aware of anything that worries them. After all, it’s in their interests to make sure that crime or any form of anti-social behaviour isn’t happening on their doorstep.

 
This particular problem and the other forms of modern slavery we see cause immense misery and suffering. The human cost should always be our first concern. But that doesn’t mean landlords aren’t entitled to worry about the impact on their businesses as well. When your property is occupied by criminals – the damage and financial and reputational costs to you can be immense.

 
If you do think that your property (or any other you know about) is being used for any form of modern slavery, including the sex trade, the official is advice is . . .

 
“If you see something suspicious, no matter how small, please call police on 101, the UK Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111”

 
Be on your guard.

 
Oliver