How to conduct a successful property viewing

My tenant wants to move their partner in, what do I do?

Question

I suspect that one of the tenants has moved her partner into her room. I am worried that this will start a trend with all of the other tenants in my HMO, and I will find myself with double the people living there that I am prepared for! What should I do?

Answer

Ah, love is in the air! With Valentine’s Day just around the corner the shops are full of hearts and, but when it comes to this sort of thing, you must make sure that you are not blinded by romance!

You are right to be concerned, this could escalate to a very real issue. Your licence is likely to limit the amount of people that live in the property, and if you breach your licensing conditions you could face really hefty fines of up to £30,000 for each licensing condition you breach.

If you have someone over the age of 18 living in your property who is over the age of 18 who you haven’t performed a Right to rent check on you are also falling foul of those regulations. Failure to comply with these also carries a hefty fine and a potential prison sentence if you continue to fail to carry out the checks.

With changes due in April to the HMO licensing requirements, there is also a possibility that the room your tenant rents will not legally be large enough for two people to live in. The changes state that rooms must be 6.52 square meters for one person, and 10.23 square meters for two people in order to comply with regulations, so if your room falls short your tenant’s plans will be cut down to size by Schedule 4 of the Housing Act.

Your tenant may be living with roses round the door, but their romantic move might cost you dearly… so you need to make sure you sort this issue, quickly!

Ascertain how often your tenant’s partner is staying at the property

It is possible that your tenant would be aware that they are breaking the rules of their tenancy agreement by having their partner stay for an extended period, so it is possible that they maybe less than honest about the amount of time their loved-one is spending in the property. It might be worth checking with other tenants, taking the opportunity to gently remind them of the rules laid out within their tenancy agreement.

Have a frank discussion with the tenant

If you discover that your suspicions are correct, you need to address the issue with your tenant quickly. After all, you are liable for some severe issues if anything were to go wrong! Outline the breaches to the tenancy agreements that your tenant is making, and also highlight the risks they are making to the household – they are likely to be unaware that their actions are putting their home, and that of their housemates, at risk.

Follow the chat up with a written note

A quick email noting down the conversation, and the points you covered will help ensure that if your tenant doesn’t desist with their tricky behaviour, you have evidence to prove that you took steps to remedy the issue. This isn’t a ‘cover all’ method of proving you’ve done all you can but building a paper trail is essential good practice when dealing with any potential contentious issues.

Make it official

If you are open to the ideal of your tenant moving their partner in, you need to make it official. Make sure you carry out a Right to Rent check on the new person, check if your insurance requires the tenant to be referenced, and arrange adding them to the existing AST.

Consider the impact on existing tenants

If you do decide to allow the changes (licensing allowing!) consider the impact it may have on the rest of the household. If the rest of your property is made up of single tenants, with everyone paying similar amounts of rent, maybe consider the impact two people sharing will have on the atmosphere of the house – if two people are using the same facilities as one ad paying the same, you may find some friction building.

Prepare yourself to find a new tenant

Brace yourself for the fact that your tenant may be using your property as a trial run, before looking into the possibility of sourcing a property together. If you are unsure of how the changes will impact your property and existing tenants, or your tenant is uncooperative with regards to changes that will need to be made, consider whether they are likely to stay in the long term (is the room suitable for a couple?), and if not, put your foot down. Whilst you will have to find a new tenant, it is better to do so on your own terms that after putting in the work required to change tenancies etc!

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