While maximising your ability to rent out your property to multiple occupants is appealing, it is important to consider that being an HMO landlord may require more responsibility than managing an average property.
Comes into force on 6th August 2024
This means that all HMOs within the Bristol City Council boundary, and most other types of privately rented properties in Bishopston and Ashley Down, Cotham and Easton wards, will need a licence from Tuesday 6 August 2024. The schemes will be in operation for five years and each property will be inspected at least once during the lifetime of the scheme to ensure that they meet licensing standards.
Landlords and agents will have up to three months from the start date to submit their licensing applications (until 5 November 2024) together with the part 1 fee. We will not consider enforcement for an unlicensed property until that period ends.
Now that we know how to fulfil the legal requirements of HMO landlordship, we will asses cases of HMO landlordship gone wrong:
Landlord Joe Sutera was fined £44,000 after neglecting to ensure clear passage out of the property in the case of a fire. There were also no working smoke alarms in the property. As cited in the The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 – “The manager must ensure that all means of escape from fire are kept free from obstruction.” Alongside the necessity to display prominent notices that indicate the means of escape through the property, all fire fighting equipment and fire alarms are required to be working in good order.
When appearing in Bristol Magistrate’s Court Sutera refused to identify himself – bizarrely referring to himself only as “a man” and claiming that the real Sutera was lost at sea. The “man” was found guilty in Sutera’s apparent absence.
Bristol landlord Thomas Flight was fined £32,000 after hiding his identity from his tenants in order to steal deposits and charge hidden fees. As listed in the government HMO regulations; managers “must ensure that their name, address and any telephone contact number are made available to each household in the HMO; and such details are clearly displayed in a prominent position in the HMO.”
Not only did this landlord assume a false identity, Flight’s property management business went by multiple trading names and when in court Flight attempted to blame his crimes on a letting agent who was never found. Unless all of his associates were as flighty as Flight himself was, this was assumed to be yet another made-up identity, alongside the multiple non-existent landlords he cited in court.
Landlords not licensing their HMOs is also an issue of growing concern – as landlords Ramiz Kafai and Naomi Knapp have been held accountable for. Kafai, receiving a fine of £9,600, failed to licence a property rented by four tenants who successfully received individual rent repayment from Kafai. They were informed of their legal rights by a private housing case worker at Bristol City Council.
In Knapp’s case, she was fined £22,000 with an additional £7,000 paid in costs. After three decades of acting as a landlord it was found that out of her 29 Bristol properties, 18 were in need of licensing. The properties found numerous issues including missing fire doors, battered walls, shabby communal areas and rubbish strewn gardens.
Knapp was banned from any form of renting for five years for her misdeeds and added to the rogue landlord database, a list of landlords and property agents who have been given a banning order.
Knapp could have avoided going rogue had she abided by the HMO regulations which requires that “any garden belonging to the HMO is kept in a safe and tidy condition” and that each part of the HMO that is used as living accommodation has an internal structure that is maintained in good repair.
These cases highlight the moral and legal imperatives of responsible property management. The HMO regulations are designed not only to uphold legal standards but also to ensure the safety and well-being of tenants. For landlords navigating the complexities of HMO regulations, understanding and compliance are key.
The cases of these punished HMO landlords serve as valuable lessons for those engaged in property management and for potential HMO renters. Responsible property management is not only a legal obligation but also a moral one. By prioritising the safety and satisfaction of your tenants, you not only avoid legal troubles but also contribute to creating a positive community within your properties.