Ask Tenants blog
The blog is focussed on the rights of tenants living in HMOs. This is a guest post from Dwell, an estate, and lettings agency in Leeds.
Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) are the fastest-growing type of housing in the UK. Their rapid growth in popularity is due in part to the increased demand for affordable housing by single people, and also due to the higher potential rental yield for landlords who transform traditional Buy-To-Lets into HMOs.
With HMOs allowing landlords to lease out their property on a bedroom-by-bedroom basis, and conversely tenants only technically paying for a room rather than a whole house, there have been cases of unscrupulous landlords converting the additional living spaces in their properties into bedrooms in a bid to squeeze as many tenants into their property as is possible. It’s important for tenants living in HMO’s to know their rights.
Although laws were put into place to protect tenants’ rights in HMOs in October 2018, many are still unaware of the minimum living conditions required from HMO landlords. Here is a guide in exactly what your rights are when living in an HMO, and where you can go if you feel they are being violated.
Rights of tenants in HMO’s: Required Communal Living Areas in HMOs.
Given that HMO tenants are only technically paying for their bedroom, some are under the impression that there are no requirements of a landlord to provide communal living facilities.
This is not true, however. All HMO dwellings have to have, at the very least, adequate washing facilities (a sink and a shower), at least one toilet for every four tenants, as well as a stove and oven.
Naturally, utilities such as electricity, heating and hot water need to be provided (although not necessarily paid for) by a landlord. Gas safety checks need to be performed annually, with an electrical safety check done every five years. It is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure that these are completed.
Outdoor waste disposal that is routinely collected by the local council also needs to be provided.
Basic health and safety provisions such as smoke detectors also need to be present in kitchens.
It is important to note that HMOs are not required to have dedicated communal living areas aside from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens. There is no obligation for their to be a dedicated dining or living room.
Rights of tenants in HMO’s: Bedroom requirements for HMOs
To limit a landlord’s ability to convert every room in a property into a bedroom, a room rented out as part of an HMO has to have the following minimum dimensions:
- To rent out a bedroom to a single tenant over the age of 10, the room needs to have at least 6.51 meters squared of usable floor space. Usable floor space is defined as an area of flooring where the floor-to-ceiling distance is 1.5 meters or more.
- Double bedrooms require 10.22 meters squared of usable floor space.
- A bedroom occupied by a child under 10 years old has to have 4.64 meters squared of usable floor space.
These are the absolute minimum requirements for a bedroom to be rented out as such. Given that many early 20th century builds have a small “box room” that is often converted into a bedroom, it may well be worth cracking out a tape measure to make sure your room is of the minimum required size.
Rights of tenants in HMO’s: Tenants freedom from intrusion from landlords
Given that HMO landlords do not actually let out the communal living areas of their properties, they are allowed to enter these areas at any time. Similarly, they are (by the letter of the law) allowed some degree of control as to how these areas are heated and maintained, assuming that bills and maintenance are included in the rent.
That being said, landlords still have some obligations to their tenants for the general living areas that they occupy. Landlords are required to make these communal areas “safe and decent” for tenants. This includes allowing for adequate heating provisions, as well as fixing any hazards in a timely fashion.
The laws are admittedly quite vague when it comes to the communal areas of HMOs, so in reality, the best option is to verbally agree with your landlord about how heating is to be used, who will be responsible for repairs, and notice that a landlord should give before entering.
It is not unreasonable for tenants to demand a higher energy limit during the winter months, and for a landlord to give 24-hour notice before entering any part of the property.
As bedrooms are being let out, landlords are not allowed to enter them without express permission from the relevant tenant, and even then 24 hours notice needs to be given. This includes instances where the landlord is entering a bedroom to perform repairs.
Rights of tenants in HMO’s: Where to go if an HMO landlord is violating your rights as a tenant.
A lot of the time tenants break the terms of their HMO agreement simply out of ignorance of the condition that their property has fallen into. This could be cases where gas safety checks have become out of date for example.
In such instances, your best bet is to get into contact with you landlord and politely let them know the maintenance or changes required to their property. They may well just be unaware of what they need to do and will thank you for reminding them.
If a landlord is ignoring your rights or is intentionally undermining them, you should contact your local council. They are the ones who handle HMO licensing, and if they find that your landlord is intentionally violating the terms of their license then they could face a fine, lose their license or even receive a criminal record.
If you believe your landlord is harassing you then you should contact the police immediately. Such harassment can include entering your bedroom without your consent, threatening you with eviction even when you have not broken any terms of your agreement, or turning off your utilities with no good reason.