I have a number of HMOs and am concerned about the new room size changes. Does the floor space taken up by fitted wardrobes count as floor space in a room, or is it only the ‘empty’ floor available in the room that is taken into account?
Anyone who owns or oversees HMOs will by now be aware of the new guidelines that are coming into force on October 1st.
The new HMO rules were agreed by parliament on February 23rd and are covered by the ‘Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation Order 2018’. Whilst the comprehensive legislation (you can read it in full here) will have many impacts on HMO landlords, one of the biggest concerns is that of the new guidelines surrounding minimal room sizes.
The changes have been introduced in a bid to tackle rogue landlords from exploiting tenants in cramped and dangerous properties, however, for many landlords who may have properties with rooms that fall just below the minimum standards (especially if they have a happy, long-term tenant in place), the changes spell potential disaster for their property portfolio.
The new guidelines dictate that rooms slept in by one person over the age of 10 years can be no smaller than 6.41 square meters, those slept in by two people over ten years can be no smaller than 10.22 square meters and those slept in by children of ten years of younger can be no smaller that 4.64 square meters.
It should also be considered that rooms must have a minimum ceiling height of 2.14 meters over 75% of the floor area, and if the ceiling height if the room at any stage is less that 1.52 meters, the floor space below that ceiling will be disregarded.
Many landlords are finding that their properties are coming in at just under the required size but have long-standing tenants who are happily living in their property. So, what to do? Faced with the option of evicting your tenant under the new legislation or exploring every option, it makes sense to explore as far as you can!
With regards to your fitted wardrobes, many people are turning to this option as a work around - and in some locations you may be lucky, in some instances wardrobes and fitted units are being taken into account as ‘useable floor space’. However, local authorities across the country have interpreted the primary legislation differently, so check the way your council are planning to implement the changes before you rely on this option.
If your council have decided that space taken up by a fitted unit is NOT counted as floor space, you could consider if it is worth removing the unit and saving the space as a usable HMO room – if you have a tenant in situ they are likely to prefer the option of a freestanding wardrobe and not having to move, over and above a build in wardrobe and an awful lot of upheaval!
Bear in mind, chimney breasts, attached lobbies and en-suite bathrooms are not taken into account, whereas space into a bay window will be included.
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