Tagged: HMO

Fire safety and landlord safety in HMO properties

fire protection advice for HMO properties

Research has shown that the risk of death from fire in some types of HMO is greater than in single occupancy properties, highlighting the need for adequate fire precautions. ENTEC Limited gathered statistics which show that in houses that are converted into bedsits the risk of death from fire is 1 in 50,000 and in bedsit houses that have three or more storeys this risk jumps to 1 in 18,600. These risks are six times and sixteen times higher than the risk of death from fire in a single occupancy dwelling respectively.

Under the Housing Act 2004 there are no set standards for fire safety as each residence may be unique and pose different risks. Fire precautions are used to stop smoke and fire from spreading in order that the residents have a better chance of escape. These precautions include a protected route (the means of escape in the event of fire), fire separation, fire doors, automatic fire detection, emergency lighting, firefighting equipment and fire safety compliant furniture. Each of these precautions must be considered for HMO’s but note that the precautions used can be dependent on the risk of the property.

Fire Safety and Landlord Safety precautions

PROTECTED ROUTE: This covers the exit from the building in the event of a fire and should always be kept clear to allow easy access to safety. All final exit doors should be able to be opened without a key. The doors, walls, floors and ceilings of the escape route should be made to resist the passage of smoke and fire for half an hour, and any electric or gas meter boxes should be encased in material to resist fire for at least half an hour as well. Any cracks, holes or damage to the plaster in the walls or ceilings of the escape route need to be repaired using material to give the required standard. Certain items should not be allowed in the stairways, such as portable heaters, heaters with naked flames or with bars, fixed heaters with gas canisters, upholstered furniture, storage furniture, coat racks and cooking appliances.

FIRE SEPARATION: All lettings in HMO’s should be separated from one another as well as from the protected route using half hour fire resistance for the walls, floors and ceilings. In HMO’s that have commercial premises attached a one hour fire resistant separation is needed.

FIRE DOORS: Fire doors are needed in high risk HMO’s to prevent the spread of fire onto the protected route. Each letting room and any other rooms opening onto the protected route should be fitted with a fire door which needs to meet certain standards. Fire doors should be half hour fire resistant and must be able to be opened from the inside without the use of a key. They must also be self-closing and fitted with a minimum of three hinges that are made to withstand temperatures of more than 800 degrees centigrade. The gap between the door and the door frame may not be more than 3mm and 8mm underneath the door. Fire doors must never be wedged open.

AUTOMATIC FIRE DETECTION: In large HMO’s (three storeys or more) a full fire alarm system should be installed with a central control panel. Heat detectors should be provided in all kitchens and rooms with cooking facilities, whilst smoke detectors should be provided in all hallways, landings, living rooms and bedrooms. In smaller HMO’s

(two storeys) smoke detectors/alarms should be installed in the hallways, landing and bedrooms and a heat detector should be installed in the kitchen. All heat and smoke detectors should be wired to the mains with a battery back-up. Fire detection alarms must be maintained and checked regularly.

EMERGENCY LIGHTING: Emergency lighting with a battery back-up if the mains electric supply fails is required in HMO’s of three or more storeys. This provides adequate lighting for the occupants to be able to see the escape route from the building. It must be maintained and kept in good working order, and inspected regularly.

FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT: Fire extinguishers are needed so that small fires may be put out and also so that the escape route may be kept passable in the event of a larger fire. Instructions to tenants must be given on the correct way to use the fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers should be placed on brackets that are about 1 metre from the floor and must comply with BS EN3 and be kept in good working order and serviced once a year. A multi-purpose extinguisher should be placed on each floor in the communal hallway. In a kitchen a carbon dioxide or a dry powder extinguisher should be provided. A fire blanket conforming to standard BS 6575 should be provided in a shared kitchen.

FIRE SAFETY COMPLIANT FURNITURE/FURNISHINGS: Any furniture or furnishings provided must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings Amendment Regulations 1993. This includes upholstered furniture, mattresses, cushions, pillows, seat pads and any upholstered garden furniture.

If you a require a HMO insurance quotation, call Highhouse insurance today and we will be pleased to assist.

How to find tenants

Landlord handing keys to tenant with documents
Choosing the right tenants

So you have purchased your property with intention of letting, or you may already have a property and made the decision that renting out the place would suit your circumstances. Either way when you are ready to let your property the next step is to look at how to find tenants and more important, the right ones.

How to find tenants

There are a number of different things you can do to you find the right tenants and hopefully minimise any problems you may face in the future.

Do it alone or get an agent

If you are ready to let your property then you have or should have at least thought about how involved with the actual tenanting you want to be. It is worth looking into what local letting agents offer, most agents offer different levels of service from just helping you to find a tenant to taking care of everything including property maintenance and dealing with rent arrears. Naturally there is a charge and the more involved a letting agent is the more they will cost.
Being a landlord comes with responsibility including compliance with legislation. Its not impossible to go it alone and there is nothing with regards to letting a property that a landlord cant do solely. There is enough resource material available in handbook form and online to outline everything involved with being a landlord but this requires studying research and keeping up to date with. You also have to ask yourself how involved physically do you want to be? Are you prepared to be woken up in the night to deal with emergencies?
Find the happy medium for your circumstances, remembering that a letting agent can take on a lot of the responsibility but at the same time they can greatly affect your bottom line.

Checking References

References are often overlooked by landlords but are a very good first base filter for finding the right tenants. These days there are quite strict referencing procedures in place to protect landlords, which can arguably prove to be a bit of a headache for tenants. Following up references by contacting the tenants employer, previous landlord or using a specialist referencing company will help you paint a better picture of the kind of tenants you could have. Be wary of some references, many landlord forums are filled with comments by landlords claiming that previous landlords have given a good reference in order to get rid of tenants and although we have little evidence of this the fact that this comes up quite a lot in landlord forums certainly raises an eyebrow.

Find the right tenants by credit checking

Doing a credit check is more for peace of mind and down to the individual landlord and the nature of the tenancy. For example you may feel more compelled to do a credit check if renting out the full property but may not if the house is in multiple occupancy.
Naturally the more transparent a potential tenant is willing to be the more at ease a landlord will feel. It is important to know a tenants financial situation, what is their main source of income? How secure is their job and how reliable do you feel they will be at paying rent?
Credit checks provide a good financial history of the tenant based on records, it does not prove that a tenant is always going to be able to pay even if they have an excellent rating and a bad history does not mean they can’t pay. Some people have just gone through a bad period in their life and can still be made to pay for it many years on. Trust your gut instinct and how you feel about the tenant, they may pass credit checks and references with flying colours but what insight can you gain from a face to face meeting and would you be happy to deal with them.

Documentation

One of the best ways of protecting yourself and being able to deal with any problems is to document certain parts of the let. A tenancy agreement may be written or can be oral and having a hard print version provides more protection for both you and the tenant. It can give you and the tenant subject to the agreement more than your statutory rights but cannot give you less than your statutory rights.
When obtaining a tenancy agreement we advise you use a reputable source and avoid the free tenancy templates available online. Agreements drawn up by Solicitors or tenancy agreements endorsed by the National landlords Association (NLA) will offer a more trusted resource.
It is worth while, especially if the property is furnished, to create an inventory that lists all the furnishings, fixtures and fittings accompanied by a description of condition including any marks and where possible supported by dated pictures.
The tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme that came into force in 2007 is a government backed scheme setup to protect tenants. It ensures tenants get their deposit back if they meet the terms of the tenancy agreement, pay the rent and bills and don’t damage the property.
Having an accurate inventory is therefore very important as it could be key in proving that items have been damaged or are missing or better still prevent such cases from arising in the first place.

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Letting to Students

A guide to landlords looking at letting to students
Letting to Students

Letting to students

Letting to students is slightly different from a legal perspective than renting to other types of tenants such as families or professional working couples. If the house has 3 or more tenants forming more than 1 household (a household represents 1 or more members of the same family who live together) and these tenants share bathroom and kitchen facilities then the house is classed as a house of multiple occupancy or HMO for short.

Accommodation for students

Each year the influx of students to a region where there is a university provides a real boost to the local economy and generally speaking will keep businesses that earn their trade through students in good stead for the long term supplying steady demand, subject to competition of course. The demand for houses near a University or academic institute is usually high with existing student landlords, keen parents wanting to buy their children a student house and other potential landlords wanting to give student letting a go means that properties are don’t stay on the market for long.

The closer to an academic institute the property is the more expensive the property tends to be on a like for like basis. Of course properties near student bars and clubs will be popular as well and worth looking into.

Generally speaking the student letting market has been stronger these last few years compared to other areas of the residential investment market especially in cities like London.

The demand from students for accommodation isn’t necessarily greater than the supply of accommodation available everywhere though and Leeds Unipol believed that in 2012 there would be a surplus of approximately 3,800 bed spaces leaving many landlords with unfilled rooms or worse untenanted properties.

Universities themselves compete strongly in the student accommodation market and are constantly building new purpose built student blocks. Each time a block or group of blocks is completed their share in the market can increase by several hundred students and put a squeeze on the private rental sector for student accommodation.

Rolle College in Exmouth, Devon is a good example of where a University can remove a market in one swoop. The college use to be a teacher training college and was part of Plymouth University. In 2009 the University relocated the campus with some 3000 students and 400 staff to its main campus which is over 40 miles away and the consequences had both economic and social implications in Exmouth. Many of the student accommodation properties have since been rented out to other individuals or rented out fully but the student letting market ceased.

When looking for properties with the intention of letting to students it is worth spending a bit of time researching the current market for a target area and any future developments. The University website will usually have a section on accommodation and future developments which might be able to provide some invaluable information and local estate agents should be able to provide good advice but getting the advice from several estate agents will allow you to cross reference and paint a clearer picture. We should also point out that you will require HMO Landlord Insurance, a unique insurance specifically underwritten for student property lets and we recommend you also take into account insurance factors such as flood risk, crime rates or any history of subsidence when choosing a buy to let.

What facilities should be provided when letting to students

It’s difficult to give advice on what facilities should be provided that goes into enough depth covering what students require and the regulations and standards that need to be met by law. The best advice is to go online and look up the university or academic institute website and read through the pages on accommodation.

Many universities work with their local council and student guilds to offer accreditation schemes. These schemes aim to recognise a set of standards outlining key Landlord responsibilities offering students protection and Landlords clear guidance.
The relevant local council website should provide information on what they expect from landlords and legal requirements and be a good resource for contact numbers and further avenues.

It is also important to not just set out a student let that complies with laws and regulations but it should be designed with students in mind. The more attractive and accommodating to students the property is the easier it will be to let.

Students normally pack light so the property should be furnished, not extravagant but suitable for students to quickly settle in. Rooms should be equipped with a bed, wardrobe and desk. If the rooms are on several floors or the property has quite a few rooms then more than one bathroom should probably be provided if possible. Kitchen appliances are likely to get heavy use so cutting corners to save money using cheaper appliances could end up costing more in the long run. Are the fridges/ freezers big enough for the number of student tenants in the property?

What else are you going to offer student? are all bills inclusive of rent? Are you going to offer a wifi connection? (really is a must these days) Do you want to provide direct contact details?

For all the information available on HMO’s, regulations and practices there is an equal amount of resource provided to students offering advice on what to look for when searching for a student accommodation (NUS and university websites provide such information) and it is worth cross referencing to so that you can meet all regulations and legal regulations as well get a good idea of what students are looking for.

HMO Insurance – HMO Landlord Insurance

Hmo Insurance- Shared House Insurance for homes in multiple occupation
Hmo Insurance- Shared House Insurance

Coverholder at LLoyds

Key HMO landlord insurance benefits

  • Instant no claims discount.
  • Competitive rates, only covering your needs.
  • Single or portfolio policies available.
  • Policies underwritten at Lloyds of London.
  • Speak directly to one of our advisers.
  • Option to pay by Direct Debit.

HMO Insurance

At Highhouse, we are able to provide shared house insurance or HMO insurance as defined by the Housing Act 2004. We can provide you with a HMO landlord insurance policy covering all the usual perils you and your lender will require. Our own let property policy is underwritten at Lloyds of London and we will be pleased to provide you with a free quotation. We are used to dealing with landlords and all property types, we issue our own polices “in house” noting lenders interests if required and we can have you on cover, with the documents over to you, your solicitor or lender, in most cases on the same day.

Once you become a client of Highhouse, making adjustments to your policy is simple and you will find it remarkably easy to reach us by phone where we pride ourselves on the speed we deal with all enquiries. We can insure single risks and add additional properties throughout the year to make an insurance portfolio with payments being calculated on a pro-rata basis. We accept payment by most major credit and debit cards, bank transfer or can arrange convenient monthly installments.

Under our facility, we are able to provide cover for most shared house insurance requirements, property types and methods of construction, why not give us a ring; we’ll be pleased to receive your enquiry.

What does HMO mean

HMO stands for House in Multiple Occupation and may also or Multiple Occupancy Homes. In April 2006 new legislation came into force, meaning that HMO licensing became necessary. Failure to obtain the correct HMO license can result in a fine of up to £20,000 and the implementation of the HMO licenses has helped to raise the standards of accommodation. This information is to be treated as a general guide only and the Local Authority should be contacted for more advice on licensing. It also needs to be made clear that the rules and regulations on HMO’s may vary between different Local Authorities.

HMO’s may be defined as follows;

  1. An entire house which is let to at least three tenants who form at least two household and who share either/or a kitchen, bathroom and toilet. A household is defined as the same family members who reside together, married or not, including relatives and half relatives and both adopted and fostered children.
  2. A house that has been converted into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to at least three tenants who form at least two households and who share either/or a kitchen, bathroom and toilet.
  3. A building which has been converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet with the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one third of the flats are on short term tenancies.

With regard to the tenants occupying the building, there must be more than one household and a household is defined under the Housing Act 2004 as a single person, co-habiting couples of either the same or different sex or a family unit. We can still provide insurance for situations where only part of the building is currently let, this sometimes happens with refurbishments and it often takes a little time for tenants to move in. We can also provide cover if your property satisfies the definition in relation to at least one third of the property being a HMO, in some cases part of the building is owner occupied (sold on a lease) and the landlord may even live on the premises.

HMO Landlord Insurance

HMO Insurance is a specialist insurance policy designed to meet the requirements for that type of let property.

As HMO properties pose a higher insurance risk (because of the multiple tenants) the HMO landlord has different liabilities and obligations to a standard let property owner. HMO properties need extra protection with regards to fire safety due to an increased fire risk. Consequently certain fire precautions need to be adhered to, such as smoke detectors in every bedroom as well as in communal areas, a heat detector in the kitchen, annual gas safety checks and electric checks every five years. There must also be access to adequate cooking and washing facilities for the number of tenants in the property, as well as enough rubbish bins for the amount of tenants.

How to obtain a HMO Licence

To make an application for an HMO license it is necessary to contact the relevant local authority who will be able to provide you with the application form and will also be able to inform you of the rules in your area and answer any queries. The local authority will be able to give you information relating to the costs involved in the application process, which generally vary depending on type of HMO and the number of tenants in the property. The length of time that the application takes will, of course, depend on various factors, but, providing that the landlord has submitted a valid application, the HMO may continue to operate until a decision has been made by the local authority (including any time taken for appeals). A property inspection may need to be done before a license is granted. The license itself is usually held by the landlord but, if the landlord nominates another person such as a property manager or agent it may then be held by that person. One license is needed per property and it is non- transferable to another property, and the period that it covers is usually five years.

Obtaining HMO Insurance

It’s important when seeking HMO Landlord insurance that you inform the insurers that the property is multi tenured. If you simply request a buy to let quotation for a rented property without disclosing the fact that more than one tenant will be in situ, you may find your cover is compromised. By presenting the insurer with the full facts you will ensure that your HMO property is correctly insured including the necessary liability insurance.
Before operating an HMO, you will need to speak to your local authority who will provide you with the necessary license and alert you to any special requirements with regard to safety at the property.

What sets a HMO apart from other properties used say as holiday home accommodation is that the premises must be the occupant’s main place of residence or used by students during term time. For other uses allowable, you will need to refer to your HMO licence and disclose such usage to us at the time you request a quote.

We believe here at Highhouse you should only pay for the level of cover needed, our bespoke HMO insurance policies are designed to create an insurance policy using the highest level of cover at the most competitive rates.
If you would like a HMO insurance quote then simply fill in a few basic details on our quote form (these are not instant quote forms), we will then call you to discuss your requirements and make sure we offer a policy that prevents you from being overinsured or underinsured.

 

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