Legislation, Civil penalty fines, licensing, HMO management regulations

12 Jan 23

If you were ever in doubt that the intention of a council licence inspection is not to assist you, but to fine you immediately if they possibly can, read this standard letter sent recently to one of this firm’s landlord clients currently in the process of applying for a licence.

Dear Landlord

I am the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who has been assigned your House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence application.
 
In order to assess if the above named dwelling is suitable for use as a HMO, or if it can be made suitable, I will carry out an inspection of the property. I have scheduled a time of xx.xx pm on xx January 2023, please confirm. 

Please be aware that I may arrive up to 30 minutes after the agreed time.

Advanced warning 

If you miss the appointment, are running late and do not inform the council, or all rooms are not available for inspection (for example because you do not have a key), the maximum licence term you can receive is 1 year. Irrespective of whether you applied for a 2 or 5 year licence. 

If there are breaches of the HMO Management Regulations 2006 (2007 for converted blocks of flats), you may receive a fine of £30,000 for each breach. You can read the law here, and view details of fines we’ve issued to landlords here

If there are any hazards to health, for example falls on stairs or damp & mould, I may issue an enforcement notice. The council will always recover its reasonable expenses incurred in doing so, and this will not be less than £380. You can read a landlord’s guide to HHSRS here.

So there you have it. From the mouth of one of the most aggressive councils in the country. One whose example all other councils are following.

What is refreshing here is that this council, Coventry City Council, is at least being honest about the true approach and intent of Licence Application property inspections.

The purpose is no longer what the Housing Act envisaged, that the inspection would assist a landlord and advise them what to put right within a timeframe.

As with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (aka Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004), councils have come to realise that they can issue massive fines under the HMO Management Regulations immediately, without warning and with zero time to remedy anything that was wrong.

It now becomes more than ever essential to be 100% certain that every aspect of your HMO is compliant with the 29 Hazards of HHSRS, the entire HMO Management Regulations, Fire Risk and local authority amenity standards.

As the council officer explained above they will be looking for any excuse to issue you with fines under the HMO management regulations as fining councils has become one of a council’s most effective revenue streams. 

Said Phil Turtle, compliance director with Landlord Licensing & Defence “Councils can issue multiple fines of up to £30,000 each based this ‘friendly’ licence application inspection. This firm frequently sees landlords being fined £50,000-60,000.”

If you are applying for an HMO Licence you absolutely should obtain a professional audit against all of the HHSRS hazards, HMO Management Regulations, Fire Risk Assessment and Local Authority Amenity Standards. Simply complete the form here.

Thank you for reading

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