The client was renting the residential property to a Company who help vulnerable young adults and was trying to ascertain if the property needed a licence. His tenant was a corporate company which was providing an immigrant orientation service and also providing their living accommodation.
On contacting us he had attempted to connect with the local Council a number of times to no response. Emails and phone calls to the council were to no avail so he was referred to us in desperation as the compliance deadline was looming.
He had been through the Council website, which left him perplexed as to what to do and (sensibly) imagining the dire consequences of doing nothing; he was still uncertain and somewhat distressed.
We were able to tell him immediately that the nature of the occupation and the circumstances definitely meant that the house was a HMO and required a HMO licence as the local authority required HMO Licensing under the Additional Licence Category.
Inadvertently, and through lack of knowledge and appreciation of the circumstances it turned out that he had been operating the HMO without the necessary licence for over 12 months.
If he had he managed to speak to the local Council, they would probably have taken enforcement action against him with a multi-£1000s Civil Penalty ensuing.
He further revealed that his commercial tenant was in arrears and aware of the licensing situation too.
Our first task was to audit and write the specification of works needed to bring the property to licensable standard; including carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment. We proposed a schedule of works to invite the Council to inspect in order to agree the necessary works prior to carrying them all out taking into account that his cashflow was in arrears.
The announcement of a Council inspection to the tenant obviously worried the tenant who immediately commenced the process to leave the property and within two weeks had completely vacated. That was a good result.
At this point, our recommendation to the owner was to return the property to a simple dwelling house and rent it out as a family home since clearly pursuing the HMO strategy was not aligned to their personality or desires.
This immediately removed the property from an HMO operation and conveniently allowed the 12 months of unwilling illegal HMO activity to slip quietly into history along with the £30,000 fine that we were sure would be imposed.