Does acquiring S257 HMO status mean you never have to sign off regs and planning?

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    Does acquiring S257 HMO status mean you never have to sign off regs and planning?

    Hi,

    I'm trying to understand the actual legal status of a section 257 HMO.

    My understanding thus far, based on legal advice, is that a section 257 HMO is defined by the fact that the building has been converted into separate living units but that 'there is no proof that it complies with 1991 Building Regulations'.

    By virtue of the lack of Building Regulations certification, it's fair to presume this also implies a lack of planning consent in the case of most (or all?) rented buildings licensed as S257 HMOs.

    However, it seems from this that the legal status of the building is a bit difficult to understand.

    This is because licensing a building as a section 257 HMO seems to be a legal recognition of a building NOT conforming to other existing requirements (certainly building regs, and presumably planning).

    Or put another way, it seems to be a form of compliance that is defined by non-compliance.

    I'm sure you can see how this is a bit 'counter intuitive'.

    Should s257 HMO status be understood as a sort of 'amnesty' with regard to building regs / planning?

    Can licensing as an s257 HMO be seen as a 'resolved', long term and sustainable status for a rented building divided into separate units ?

    Thank you if you can shed any light on this question

    PS I am aware that s257 HMO requires fire safety assessment - my question is more about the long term legal status of the building re: planning consent and building reg sign off for separate units in a building.



    #2
    My job role is enforcing The Housing Act 2004. Any offences where the status of a building as a section 257 HMO are problematic. Your Housing Authority (the council) if they wish to take action against you for failure to license have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the property did not and still does not comply with the regulations at the time of conversion. Proving the first bit is impossible proving the second bit is difficult without expert witness. Unless the property obviously is non compliant i.e no fire alarm system, no architectural glazing in door glass and no proper fire doors I would ask the Authority how they will prove it is indeed a S.257 HMO. *(they aren't allowed to do destructive testing). Most of the other relevant historical building regs relate to sound insulation, again if there isn't any and its obvious that there isn't then you will more than likely have to accept your status of S257.

    It is not up to you as a landlord to prove that a property is not a S257 through regularisation as some authorities would have you believe, it is up to them to prove that it is if they wish to take action against you.

    Comment


      #3
      I would assume that it is mainly intended to deal with buildings that were converted before the 1991 standards, rather than ones that were in breach of them. As such, I don't think you can assume that there will be a planning breach.

      Comment


        #4
        Whether or not a building is a s257 HMO is dependent solely on the facts in relation to the Housing Act 2004. As far as I am aware it conveys nothing of the buildings planning status and if a landlord accepts the Councils assertion that it is a s257 HMO and it is licensed, this would not in my view legitimise any historic planning breach. The planning office, which is separate to HMO licensing / housing will have their own rules on which breaches they pursue and if youre past the point where they are able to prosecute and you are looking to sell then just buy an indemnity insurance. Theyre usually fairly cheap. Admitting to the Council that your property is a s257 HMO when you dont need to is not a good idea as the previous poster has already suggested.

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you all for your responses.

          I have to admit i'm still confused...but if i present my 'best understanding' of the advice you have given...could you perhaps let me know if i've understood it or not.

          1. Going to the council and seeking a s257 license is not something you are recommending

          2. It's up to the council to prove i'm in the wrong if they do decide to take action against me

          3. It's highly difficult for them to prove I'm in the wrong if they decide to take any action against me

          One further point - am i not in breach of recent legislation requiring HMO licensing for any building over three storeys that is an HMO ?

          ( i should explain, my building is divided into three separate units, the building is more than three storeys, I inhabit one of the units. Although in practice I have ensured that building regs have been complied with in terms of fire doors, thickness of partitions, mains fire and smoke alarms, fulfilment of fire safety assessment etc, there has been no official sign off of building regs or planning with regard to the creation of the three separate living units in the building)

          Thanks again

          Comment


            #6
            The current legislation doesn't have any minimum height. This change happened last year.

            Comment


              #7
              Inthelandlordzone, that sounds about right to me. If you do anything that draws the planning depts attention to a planning breach then you will never be able to get indemnity insurance and probably not be able to sell if you need to

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks for this (worrying) advice DPT57

                I'm beginning to think my best move is simply to re-unify the house into one unit.

                Is it your understanding that, once classified as a S257 HMO I won't be able to re-unify the building to a single dwelling in future?

                Thanks again

                Comment


                  #9
                  It wouldnt prevent it as far as I am aware. I think selling would be a cheaper option unless you have a particular attachment to the property.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I don't mind having the place classified as an s257HMO .... SO LONG AS.... i can re-unify the house as a single home later on (just rip out any partitions etc and reinstate as one family house) prior to sale.

                    I need to really check that one out via professional advice

                    What i don't want is to get trapped into being forced to have a building stuck in an odd planning or established use classification that stops me selling my main asset when i retire, which i roughly see as happening in ten years' time

                    I suppose another option is to go ahead an re-unify the utilities (as in, the gas/heating/electric) into one system, that is to say, just one gas supply and meter and once electricity supply and meter for the house (which presumably means the house is un-arguably ultimately a single unit, albeit what a plurality of kitchens/bathrooms in various places)

                    then i can include electric and gas with the rent to the tenants

                    And then just agree to 'zone' the house, as in, people understand by that they use such and such a kitchen/bathroom/floor of the house

                    Then, in that circumstance, i would still have to licence as an HMO (as i would have more than two tenants in the building in which i am also living), but of a different kind - one that hopefully doesn't define the house as having uncertified planning and building regs status


                    Does that sound viable to you? Or are there are definitions of 'unit' (such as doors leading to areas of the house)

                    Very grateful as ever for any informed views.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      all this really comes down to is - can a single person who wants to live undisturbed in a house too big for him share the building with tenants such that they use bits of the house he doesn't (other kitchens / bathrooms on 'their' floors). Then he gets to repossess the building in order to sell the house at a future point. Obviously he wants to avoid something like a sitting tenancy, or prosecution for any kind of legal irregularity, since this is my sole main asset, and i'll be wanting to sell up and retire out of the city at some point. There must be a way.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        The other thing to consider in the future is the other part of the classification of what makes it a s257 HMO is that less than 2/3 if the building is owner occupied. Hence once you retire and Tenants move out it is no longer a s257 HMO at that point.

                        You also have the option of doing works that would bring it out of s257 status. However would be difficult with tenants in situ.

                        With reference to planning itself my understanding is that they don't bother to pursue irregularities after 12 months and if the conversion was a long time ago then it would be deemed consent.

                        Your main problem is possible failings under Housing Health and Safety Ratings system. Plus if the issue is raised to the council or they otherwise find out it is a s257 HMO you would have to comply with the s257 regulations, even if it the property isn't in a s257 HMO additional licensing area. However if it isn't in an additional licensing area I think the council are less likely to be interested in pursuing it.

                        I would have thought reorganisation into a HMO setup is likely to raise more compliance issues than you currently have as a s257.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Thank you for this comment KeepTheFaith,

                          the only thing that's bothering me here, is that surely i DO currently have to actively apply for and get an s257 HMO licence ?

                          I thought that is the consequence of law changes that happened in Oct 18 ?

                          As such, it's not really relevant any more whether or not I'm in an additional HMO licensing area ?

                          Pretty much anyone sharing a building of this size with more than two tenants etc seems to have to get an HMO license (or potentially get fined?)
                          And since it has 'de facto' units with their own gas and electricity supplies, and doors leading from a shared hallway, yet is nonetheless not divided via the planning route...s257 HMO is the only kind of licence i can get

                          Am I right in thinking this?

                          Yet, i'm presuming, applying for the licence may trigger x, y, z issue to do with planning and regs?

                          Thanks all of you for your patience. Hope i'm not being too stupid.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            (perhaps i'm getting confused by your statements about 'the council finding out that it has s257 HMO status...isn't it the council who are providing the s257 HMO license? So they must therefore 'find out' about it. Again, apologies if i'm being slow)

                            Comment


                              #15

                              Mandatory Licensing does not apply to a s257 HMO (see p10 of document below), but also check this document to make sure you don't fit into the other categories:

                              https://assets.publishing.service.go...e_final_v1.pdf

                              However a s257 is subject to management regs under the licensing and management of houses in multiple occupation (additional provisions) England regulations 2007:

                              https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sour...yLZjduWDhXVKV_

                              However a local authority may designate areas to be additional s257 licensing areas so you need to check if you live in one of these.

                              First work out if it is a s257 HMO anyway? Mainly
                              1. was it converted pre 1 june 1992?
                              2. If yes did it comply with building regulations 1991?
                              3. If no does it comply now?
                              4. If no are less than two thirds of the self contained flats owner occupied?
                              5. If yes then it is probably a s257.

                              https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga...34/section/257

                              Comment

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