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Landlords get that sinking feeling.

What is it about this Government and their attitude to landlords?
Do they think that we are all fabulously rich having nothing better to do but drive around in the back of stretch ‘limos’ sipping champagne all day. I don’t know any landlords like this do you?

It is true that some of us have made money from rising house prices. However, for most of us this is a paper profit only which will eventually go towards supplementing our pensions or will be used in due course to expand our business.

This is the only reason I can think of for the Governments barrage of ill thought out and largely counter productive legislation. They think we are rich, so come up with legislation that will cost a small fortune to comply with. They are concerned that we might get bored; so they introduce rafts of new legislation to give us lots of extra forms to fill out, building work to organise, permissions to obtain, etc. So what are the latest ‘pearlers’ that are emanating from the former ODPM now DCLG – Department for Communities & Local Government.

The most onerous piece of legislation that has hit landlords recently is in the HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) sector. The introduction of the Housing Act 2004, which requires all landlords to register their HMO’s with their local authority or be liable to a fine of up to £20,000. A detailed article is provided by Tessa Shepperson of has already being published in the Property Hawk Magazine and provides an excellent background to the legislation.

The realities are that it is the smallest HMO’s that are often most affected by the legislation. A trawl through the various landlord chat rooms indicates that there are a number of landlords of small 5 person HMO’s which, previously were largely free from regulation have now been caught in the web. This is because these typically older properties were constructed to house more bedrooms in the roof space and therefore contain 3 floors of accommodation, one of the criteria for requiring registration. Landlords with these properties that had only 5 tenants escaped control by the planning system which still defines an HMO requiring planning permission as a property with over 5 occupants. The result is that these unfortunate landlords who were largely left alone will now have to comply with the minimum accommodation standards as laid out in the latest regulations:

These require: 1 bathroom, 1 wc and wash hand basin (whb) (the wc can be contained in a separate bathroom). The best bit though is that a wash hand basin is required in every bedroom. For anybody that is familiar with the type of terrace houses that largely make up this type of accommodation will know that most have no additional space to incorporate even the smallest toilet. Therefore, the only way to provide these facilities is by carrying out a very expensive extension. This still does not address the need to incorporate a sink or whb into each of the bedrooms.

What is all this about?
I know that many landlords are still in disbelief about this. How will having a sink in each bedroom improve standards for tenants? I’ve lived in a number of HMO’s as a student. Some had sinks in and to be honest they were ‘hovels’. Having a sink in the room did nothing to counter the fact that the room was cold, badly decorated and generally miserable. To be honest I’d rather have a warm, nicely decorated property with good appliances than having a sink, which by common consent gives the room all the allure of a ‘uni dorm’.

Off course, governments or councils can’t control these ‘real’ factors so they pick arbitrary measurements that hint at improvement but deliver nothing other than probably making the property un-saleable as family housing should a landlord decide to sell. The fact of the matter is that the rental market is already controlled. It’s called the market. If you don’t provide decent accommodation, you won’t let your property, which will force you out of business unless you improve your offer. Will somebody tell the Government that if they really want to improve the rental stock they would be better making it easier to let your property and thereby increase supply. That way tenants would have more choice. They then can provide their own regulation by renting good properties and avoiding the bad. I suspect that they have still not learnt their lesson from the time they almost killed the private rental sector dead in the 60’s & 70’s with over regulation. Until they do I’m afraid landlords should always expect to get an ominous feeling every time a new announcement emerges from the DCLG.

On a practical level I have heard of councils that have given landlords 5 years to comply with the requirement to have a whb in each bedroom. This is something you should try and ‘push’ your council to accept. In the intervening time there will be a General Election and time one hopes, for this idiotic rule to ‘sink’ without a trace.

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