This article on the Management regulations is in two parts. In this first part we look at what they are, why we have them, and landlords obligations under them.
Why do we have the House in Multiple Occupation Management Regulations ?
Being an HMO landlord is tough – not only do you have the problem of dealing with often difficult tenants – you also have these extra regulations to deal with.
However, the reason why landlords of a House in Multiple Occupation have a tougher regime to deal with is BECAUSE of all the problems that can arise.
Although there are posh high end HMOs, generally most are at the lower end of the scale. Tenants, especially those renting a room in a shared house, are often unable to afford anything more. Frequently they will be on housing benefit.
Because they are unrelated but living in close proximity, studies have shown that there are far more likely to be problems with HMOs. Many landlords have low standards and some properties are in a shocking condition.
For all these reasons, government has seen fit over the years to introduce additional regulations for HMO landlord to comply with.
Lets have a look at them.
The management regulations
There are two:
- The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, and
- The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006
They are very similar. Basically they have a health and safety function.
Since they were passed they have been amended slightly but only to extend their scope so that they will apply to converted blocks of flats which are HMOs by reason of section 257 of the Housing Act 2004.
This imposes a similar set of obligations, but limited to those areas which are within the manager’s control.
Here is a quick run down of what the regulations contain:
Landlords obligations for a House in Multiple Occupation
If you are a landlord or person managing a House in Multiple Occupation (the Manager), you must make sure that your name, address, and contact telephone number are clearly displayed in a notice (maybe laminated plastic) in a prominent position in the property.
This obligation is often breached and few Local Authorities take much notice of it on its own. However, if they are mounting a prosecution for other breaches it will usually be included – and it is one which is difficult to defend. Either there is a notice or there is not.
It is usually a good idea to make the notice out of something which is robust and to attach it firmly. Evidence should also be kept of its existence, such a photograph.
Additionally, the occupiers must be provided with the landlord’s contact details directly. This would most usually be carried out in a tenancy agreement.
You must make sure that all means of escape from fire are kept free from obstruction and maintained in good order and repair.
Fire fighting equipment (if any) must be kept in good working order, and (unless there are four or fewer occupiers) there must be notices pointing out fire the exits, displayed in prominent positions, so they are clearly visible.
This is a key area. Managers have often been caught out because they have not been active in making tenants remove their possessions from hallways and stairwells.
Have a clear set of rules and if you speak to a tenant about, say, his bicycle blocking the hallway – follow this up with a letter confirming what was said and a further visit to ensure that your instructions are being complied with..
Keep copies and records so you can you prove, if prosecuted, that these things were done.
Incidentally, some local authorities have chosen to construe the fire safety provisions as requiring a written fire risk assessment. This is a bit of a stretch but an assessment is a clear indicator that the landlord is taking his responsibilities seriously.
You must take reasonable measures to protect tenants from injury, with regard to the design of the HMO, its structural condition, and the number of occupiers.
In particular you must make sure that roofs and balconies are safe (or take prevent access), and windows with low sills have bars or other safeguards.
This is an area in which Local Authorities are increasingly active and likely to prosecute. So make sure that proper locks and safety features are placed on windows and other high-risk areas, such as flat roofs.
The water supply and drainage system must be kept in good, clean and working condition. In particular cisterns and tanks, which must be covered, and fittings must be protected from frost damage.
You must not do anything to interfere with the supply of water or drainage. So don’t cut it off if they don’t pay their rent ….
The gas regulations will apply to a House in Multiple Occupation as they do to all residential lettings, and you must supply a copy of the latest gas certificate to the Local Authority within 7 days of receiving a written request.
It is surprising how often this offence is prosecuted. Usually this is less because of the lack of existence of a certificate but more usually because it is not supplied within the required seven days.
Every electrical installation must be inspected and tested at least once every five years by a qualified electrician and a certificate obtained.
If the Local Authority ask for this you must provide a copy within seven days of their written request.
You must not do anything to interfere with the supply of electricity. So again, cutting it off if they don’t pay rent is not an option.
Care should be taken here with metered utility supplies. If the tenants are responsible for their own meters then this is fine but if the metered supply includes common areas and the landlord is responsible for the supply then you must make sure that the meter does not run out of credit.
The common parts
You must maintain the common parts of the HMO in good and clean decorative order, in a safe and working condition, and reasonably clear from obstruction.
This includes handrails and banisters, stair coverings, windows and other ventilation, light fittings; and all fixtures, fittings and appliances used in common by occupiers. These must all be kept in good and safe repair and in clean working order.
However this does not apply to tenants own possessions or things they are entitled to remove from the property.
Note by the way that in a normal tenancy, if there is disrepair or the tenant damages something then the landlord may have little liability. However, if the tenants cause damage in an HMO the landlord may be prosecuted if it is not dealt with.
This includes outbuildings, yards and forecourts used by occupiers, and gardens. Boundary walls, railings fences etc must be also kept in good and safe repair so they are not a danger to occupiers and keot clean, tidy and free from rubbish.
This is something that local authorities are increasingly keen on due to complaints from other local residents.
If any part of the property is not in use, you must make sure that areas directly giving access to it are kept clean and free from rubbish
Note that the ‘common parts’ which you are responsible for, includes entrance doors (including to occupiers own rooms), stairs, passages and corridors, lobbies, entrances, balconies, porches and steps .
Basically the parts of the property used by your tenants to gain access to their own rooms, and to any other part of the property where they have shared access.
You must make sure that living accommodation and furniture for occupiers’ own use is in a clean condition at the start of the tenancy, and that the internal structure and any fixtures, fittings or appliances are maintained in good repair and clean working order, including windows.
However this does not apply if tenants cause damage (by not complying with the terms of their tenancy agreement). Or if they behave in an unreasonable manner. Or to damage done to their own things or things they are entitled to remove from the property.
Where damage was caused by the occupiers you need to be able to show that this was resolved promptly with the costs being charged back to the occupier.
You need to provide suitable and sufficient rubbish bins and/or bags, and and make sure they are put out at the right time to be collected by the Local Authority ‘bin men’.
Although these regulations will apply to all HMOs, the standards required will vary depending on the age, character and prospective life of the property and the locality in which it is situated.
So posh central London shared properties will need to be maintained to a higher level than tatty bed sits in run down inner city areas.
This article will be concluded next time when we look at tenants responsibilities and enforcement.
Further HMO resources:
Advice: If you need some legal advice, for example if you have issues with your HMO tenants and need advice, you can use our ‘HMO Hotline‘ telephone advice service.
Training: Easy Law Training has regular workshops on HMO Law & Practice. You can read about these >> here (you will need to scroll down to find out the dates).