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Essential HMO safety advice for your landlords

Roger Morris | 02.07.2020

With the attraction of potentially higher yields and the opportunity of portfolio diversification, HMOs are an appealing investment for landlords.

However, if your clients are looking to invest such properties, it’s important they understand what is expected from them.

Not only do specific licensing rules need to be in place, but certain health and safety certificates need to be acquired, with the property condition being kept to an acceptable standard.

So, before your landlord clients consider an HMO investment, here’s what they need to know when it comes to health and safety.

Fire safety

Fire safety will be one of the main considerations for your landlord clients, and must fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms where appropriate. These must be tested and fully operational at the start of each tenancy.

Since September 2015, landlords in England are required to install a smoke alarm on each floor of living accommodation or face a penalty of up to £5,0001.

It’s a landlord’s legal responsibility to have a fire exit plan in place and provide tenants with instructions on what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency.

There must also be relevant fire prevention equipment, including extinguishers, any furnishing provided should meet the fire resistance regulations, and fire doors will need to be installed in certain areas of the property – these should not be obstructed by tenants.

Alongside fire safety, gas appliances must be well-maintained, with a Gas Safe Register2 engineer undertaking yearly inspections. All electrical installations and appliances provided in communal areas will need to be safe to use, accompanied by an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)3and test certificates. It’s important for landlords to having safety certificates for electrical appliances available on request.

Property security

Landlords have a legal duty of care for people dwelling in their properties. Overall security and safety are of the upmost importance when letting out a property, and landlords should be aware of their responsibility.

Some other requirements you’ll need to consider when preparing an HMO buy to let are locks for bedrooms and fire safety guidelines in communal areas. Landlords should also to advise tenants to keep exits clear and remove any obstructions from communal areas that may prove hazardous.

The safety requirements for HMOs are very extensive and are likely to differ depending on your local authority. Therefore, it's always best to check with them first to get a full list of safety requirements before embarking on your conversion plans.

Tenants will be reluctant to move into a property that doesn’t feel safe, and landlords must be willing to spend to maintain their property portfolios and keep it to a specific standard, fixing problems as they happen.

An appropriate place to live

Having come into effect in March 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 20184 states that rental properties – be it standard buy to let or HMOs – must at all times be suitable for human habitation. And tenants can challenge landlords to hold up their end of the bargain and provide suitable, humane accommodation.

Plus, the housing health and safety rating system also identifies 29 potential hazards that could result in a property being deemed unfit for human habitation by the courts.  

This includes basic things: structural integrity, asbestos, carbon monoxide or radiation levels, ensuring properties are well ventilated and not susceptible to damp, that they have correct drainage systems and water resources, and that the property itself isn’t overcrowded and breaks HMO licensing rules.

Do your clients know their responsibilities?

Investing in HMOs shouldn’t be taken lightly, as they demand numerous additional requirements that need to be in place in order to let a property out not to mention the additional responsibility concerning the wellbeing of tenants and the health and safety measures that must be in place.

It’s also worth noting that councils may well have their own bespoke safety regulations in place, so it’s vital your clients to check these beforehand.

So before your clients invest in HMOs, make sure they know their responsibilities and what is expected of them.

View Kent Reliance for Intermediaries’ range of buy to let products now, or speak to your local BDM for more information.

1 https://www.poole.gov.uk/housing/private-sector-housing/the-smoke-and-carbon-monoxide-alarm-england-regulations-2015/

2 https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/gas-safety-certificates-records/

3 https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/find-an-electrician/periodic-inspection-explained/guide-to-condition-reports/

4 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-landlords-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

 

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