Are you sure your property isn't an HMO?

Posted: 7/5/2016

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Big fines have been handed out by courts in GB over unlicensed HMOs - or Houses of Multiple Occupation. Landlords can fall foul of these regulations unwittingly as some think the property has to be X number of bedrooms or x number of floors, but any size of a property can be an HMO, so what exactly constitutes an HMO?

An HMO is a property where MORE THAN TWO "qualifying" people, who are not part of the same family unit, are occupying the property as their principal residence. In other words, three tenants who are un-related and sharing a property as their main home would constitute an HMO. But ten members of the same family unit living in a house would not be an HMO. A seven bedroom terrace may not be an HMO whilst a small flat could.

So what happens if a tenant sub-lets? We sometimes hear from landlords who let properties and don't do enough to make sure that this doesn't happen. Landlords who manage their own properties like to save money on management fees, but one of the things a good agent (like us) will do for their fee is have in place a tenancy agreement restricting sub-letting and put in place procedures to try and detect and prevent both sub-letting and over-crowding. Of course we are also aware of the "let and forget" agents who take a fee and do little or nothing after that. At Key One we started our business managing properties, even before we did lettings and sales, so we know what good management is all about.

Local Authorities issue licences in the UK, with NIHE being the responsible authority in Northern Ireland. There are greater rules for HMOs, relating mostly to health, safety and management of the property. If you are considering buying a house like this you should consider the extra costs and responsibilities. We are happy to advise and assist.

A little known fact is that simply obtaining an HMO licencse does not technically make a property an HMO! It simply gives the landlord a license. To make any property a fully fledged HMO, one also needs planning approval. This can now be difficult to get in Belfast, but it is possible in some cases to obtain restrospective approval known as a "certificate of lawfulness".

At Key One Property we provide independant VIABILITY REPORTS if you are thinking of purchasing a buy to let.

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