The three required permissions are:-
- If a leasehold property, read the lease – it might not allow permission to let.
May have to obtain the permission of freeholder.
- Inform any joint owners – be careful if the property has been inherited by more than one person, and only one decides to let it without informing the others.
- Inform the Mortgage Company – might be an offence (depending on the T&C’s in the mortgage)
It is critical to ensure all permissions are obtained, especially if applying for a licence.
and external woodwork this also include supply of fresh drinking water, gas, electricity, WC’s, space heating, hot water, food preparation areas and ventilation.
Note that is a Statutory Duty, and cannot be avoided.
If the landlord fails in this Statutory duty the tenant can arrange the repairs themselves, and withhold rent to pay.
The tenant is responsible for changing bulbs, unblocking sinks and other minor maintenance
EPC / MEES
Energy Performance Certificates
It has been a legal requirement for all rentals from Oct 2008 to have a valid EPC. They currently lasts 10 years but would only need to be renewed (on expiry) upon change of tenure – i.e. sale of property or new tenant; there is no need to get a new one whilst a tenant is still in occupation.
They must be ordered prior to marketing, and there is a penalty £200 per breach for not having one.
All marketing material must show the rating, and it must be available to show any potential tenant.
A rating of F or G could be deemed to be cat 1 HHSRS hazard, and from April 2018 you cannot issue new AST for an F or G rating; whilst from 2020 will not be able to continue with an existing let (see MEES below).
An assessor will check the following:-
- Age and efficiency of boiler;
- TRV ‘s;
- Type of lighting;
- Double glazing;
- Draught proofing;
- Solar panels.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES)
The minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) was introduced in March 2015 by the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.
Landlords must not continue to let any buildings which have an EPC rating of less than ‘E’ unless the landlord registers an exemption.
What are the exemptions?
Landlords can let a building to which the MEES Regulations apply but which is below the minimum standard if any of the exemptions apply. These are:
- The ‘Golden Rule’: where an independent assessor determines that all relevant energy efficiency improvements have been made to the property or that improvements that could be made but have not been made would not pay for themselves through energy savings within seven years. There are numerous examples of “relevant” energy efficiency improvements which include double-glazing and pipework insulation which need to be considered; wall-insulation measures are not required where an expert determines that these would damage the fabric of the property.
- Devaluation: where an independent surveyor determines that the relevant energy efficiency improvements that could be made to the property are likely to reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%.
- Third Party Consent: where consent from persons such as a tenant, a superior landlord or planning authorities has been refused or has been given with conditions with which the landlord cannot reasonably comply.
Exemptions must be registered on the central government PRS Exemptions Register. The exemptions are valid for five years only and cannot be transferred to a new landlord.
Do you have an HMO?
Definition of an HMO
Since April 2006, a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is:
- An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more occupiers who form 2 or more households and who share basic amenities – e.g. a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
Note:- rents must be payable or other consideration are to be provided;
it is the occupiers only, or main residence; A resident landlord is allowed to rent to two extra sharers before it becomes an HMO;
- A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion does not meet the appropriate building standards (generally the 1991 Building Regulations) and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies (Section 257 HMO’s);
All HMO’s all subject to HMO Management Regulations, includes:-
- Require an Manager, and;
- Their contact HMO info is clearly available.
MO manager duties, Ensure:-
- all parts are kept in good repair;
- there are adequate facilities for the tenants;
- fire equipment is regularly checked;
- all means of escape are kept clear;
- annual gas cert (normal), plus 5 yearly electric cert;
- adequate waste disposal facilities the managers details must be on prominent display
- manager is a fit and proper person
The Fit and Proper person cannot have:
- Unspent convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud;
- Breach of any housing or landlord and tenant law
- Found guilty of unlawful discrimination
- Has been banned under HA 2016;
- Has not lost their Right to Remain in England;
- Has not been declared insolvent or bankrupt.
Be careful if you are letting to a family who subsequently take in a lodger. Whether you are aware or not they will have created an HMO, and if there are 5 (or more) occupants, will have created a Mandatory Licensable HMO.
Sharers vs HMO’s
Some Council differentiate between an HMO on one rental agreement (AST) which they call an HMO, and where the tenants are on individual agreements, which they call Sharers.
Note that the definition of an HMO is in legislation (Housing Act 2004) and does not take into regard the type of agreement.
Article 4 Direction
Frequently confused with licensing, if Article 4 Direction has been brought in by a Local Authority it is required to get planning permission on a new HMO. If a property was an HMO at the time Article 4 was introduced it will retain the rights to trade as an HMO, although some Authorities will not allow the property to retain that right if they choose to let as a non-HMO (i.e. a standard family let).
Note that a larger HMO of 6 occupants or more has always required to have planning permission.
Licensing is a very emotive subject. Introduced in the 2004 Housing Act it was intended to control properties that were deemed to be a greater risk than the norm, and allow greater control of them.
If a property is an HMO with 5 or more occupants it has to have a Mandatory License. Note that the criterion is occupants, not just the named tenants. Be aware of a family of 4 allowing someone non-related to live in the property – they will create a Mandatory Licensable HMO.
The license will last for 5 years, and will have to be renewed.
It is possible for the Local Authority to apply for non-Mandatory Licensable HMO’s to be licensed. This is known as Additional Licensing.
Because properties of 1 or two unrelated occupants are not HMO’s, and 5 or more are Mandatory Licensed, it follows that Additional Licensing only applies to HMO’s of 3 or 4 occupants.
- Minimum Room Sizes
Any HMO License (Mandatory or Additional) issued after October 1st 2018 must have the following conditions:-
– sleeping accommodation for 1 person over 10 years old must be a minimum of 6.51 m2 (70 ft2)
– sleeping accommodation for 2 people over 10 years old must be a minimum of 10.22m2 (110 ft2)
– sleeping accommodation for 1 person under 10 years old must be a minimum of 4.64 m2 (50 ft2)
– Therefore any room under 4.64 m2 (50 ft2) cannot be used for sleeping accommodation.
Note that any property that previously had a license now not meeting these conditions will be given an 18 month license in an attempt to meet the new criteria.
– Additional Requirements
Any licensable HMO must:
– have a written agreement (AST)
– need to reference all tenants
It is possible for a Local Authority to decree that all non-HMO’s in a specified area need to be licensed. This is Selective Licensing.
- If your property meets the criteria for a Mandatory License it cannot be challenged.
- Additional and Selective Licensing are collectively known as Discretionary Licensing, it is at the Discretion of the Local Authority whether to consider introducing it.
- The only ways of challenging are at the consultation stage, and then within 3 months of a scheme being agreed. Note that this latter challenge can only be done by a legal challenge which can be extremely expensive.
- If the Local Authority are requesting you to do something to meet the license conditions that can be challenged via the First Tier Tribunal ,they cannot legislate on the introduction of a Discretionary Scheme.
Penalties for not Licensing
- No section 21, or court proceedings;
- Unlimited fine;
- Your Tenants can claim back the rent paid to you (max 1 year).
When Licensing and HHSRS were introduced in the 2004 Housing Act there was a lot of confusion over the requirements for fire safety, as the guidance in the Act was very poor. The regulatory body to co-ordinate Local Authorities LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) (now defunct) wrote an excellent guide for fire safety guidance. Although now getting out of date it is still generally referred to by Local Authorities and the First Tier Tribunal.
The body that took over from LACORS, the LGA (Local Government Association) has produced a guide to fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats. The current version can be seen here, but is generally expected to be revised following the unfortunate circumstances following the Grenfell fire.