'Declassify' a small HMO?

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    'Declassify' a small HMO?

    Sorry for a rambling post, but it's a bit of a rambling situation.

    Our property is classed as an HMO, and so the LL is responsible for the council tax.

    You could probably skip this but let's give the full story:
    When we moved in ten years ago there were 3 of us, unrelated middle aged males.
    Large house about 400 years old, own bedrooms (no locks, not allocated, first in first pick), shared facilities, house is in England.
    Me full time, the others just during the week for work and going home at weekends.
    No written TA's, just verbal with each responsible for paying a certain amount of rent each week.
    No deposit or other complications. (And no paperwork, rent books or anything else, silly LL but give him his due he hasn't put the rent up for 10 years either).
    The council decided at the time that it was a small HMO and so CT was the LL's responsibility.
    One of the 3 moved out around 4 years ago leaving just 2 of us here, the council said it's still a small HMO for CT purposes.

    Current situation:
    My current remaining sharer has been off work since March because of Covid, and is doing some work from home (Miles away in Glasgow).
    He still has belongings in his room, and intends to come back when his workplace will allow.
    He's popped down a couple of times for meetings about when they will be able to get back in the offices again.
    I'm not sure what, if any, rent he is currently paying. (None of my business).

    So Finally to my question -
    My landlord is now asking about me contacting the council to say that I am the only person living here and getting the Council Tax put into my name.
    His motive - He wouldn't have to pay the CT, and I wouldn't have to pay CT because I'm disabled and on disability benefits.
    Of course if/when my sharer comes back that would change the situation again.

    Whilst I see my LL's point I am not inclined to do anything about this at all; but what would be the process for getting a small HMO 'declassified' for CT purposes?
    As far as I can see it is not registered as an HMO anywhere apart from for CT purposes.
    I'm guessing that each council will have it's own criteria, and as long as someone is paying CT or demonstrably exempt they wouldn't be that bothered.

    I think it would remain an HMO unless you had occupation of the whole property.

    a property is classed as an HMO if:
    • It was originally constructed, or subsequently adapted, for occupation by persons who do not constitute a single household; or
    • Each person who inhabits it is either:
    • – A tenant or licensee able to occupy part only of the dwelling; or
    • – A licensee who is not liable to pay rent or a licence fee on the whole of the dwelling.
    There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.


      I'd have thought that your landlord would simply have to tell the council of the change in circumstances and then you'd have to claim the exemption.
      Or, most likely, you could probably do both at the same (very long) time.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


        Thanks for your replies.

        The only issue as I see it is that If/when the sharer comes back after covid it is going to make things complicated at the council.
        And let's face it we all know they are not the sharpest knives in the box.

        From my point of view best left as it is.
        If LL want's to try and change things thats up to him.
        (Doubt anything will happen).


          In the absence of anything written, the Council have obviously interpreted this as 3 x room only tenancies rather than a joint tenancy. I think thats probably a reasonable interpretation if the landlord deals with each person's rent separately. This may even be the default tenancy type for shared accommodation in the absence of a TA. Others may know that. This makes the landlord responsible for the Council Tax while the situation persists.

          Unless You know that the other person has surrendered his tenancy you would be lying to the council if you tell them its just you. I dont think it would make any difference either as if the Council believe you have a room only tenancy, then the landlord still controls part of the property and even with one person it would remain a council tax HMO. The only way the landlord can change this is to persuade you to sign a tenancy agreement for the whole property.


            Yes, DPT57, that's the way I'm looking at it.

            The council is currently happy that CT is being paid, I'm not bothered either way, my LL would prefer not to have to pay the CT himself but that's his matter to sort out if he can.

            TBH I currently have a 3 bedroom, 400 y/o, property to myself (apart from 1 bedroom) for such a low rent you would not believe it.
            Even for a single room in a shared house it was a low rent 10 years ago, and has not gone up.

            My LL is very unknowledgeable about legal LL requirements, not in a bad way just lax.
            (It's a family business and he has been tasked with the rental properties as well as his usual job. I'm sure some will know the nationality I am talking about where the whole family are expected to be involved).
            eg. Although they have quite a few residential tenancies he hadn't known about EICR until I mentioned it.

            In the end it's not my problem, but I was just wondering how a LL would get a HMO 'declassified'.
            For instance if what was previously a registered HMO was then to be let to a single tenant/family?


              Originally posted by nukecad View Post
              I was just wondering how a LL would get a HMO 'declassified'.
              For instance if what was previously a registered HMO was then to be let to a single tenant/family?
              There are different criteria for different things (council tax, planning, licence).

              Letting to a single household is a change of use from C4 to C3. This was recently discussed on another thread. As per that discussion this is a permitted development so I believe there is no requirement to do anything (e.g. obtain permission) unless the right to change use has specifically been withdrawn by the Local Authority via Article 4.

              For council tax I don't see that there would be any requirement to do anything other than put the account in the name of the tenant.

              Not sure whether an HMO licence would have to be cancelled in this scenario.
              There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.


                There are two definitions of an HMO. The council tax definition in the Local Government Finance Act 1992 is different to the Housing Act 2004 definition. When there were 3 people living there it met the test for both, but as soon as the 3rd person moved out it stopped being a Housing Act HMO, but continued to be a CT HMO. That situation persists now and would continue even if the second tenant surrendered. The way to "declassify" it is simply to re-let the whole property on a single tenancy of 6 months or more, which at this point would need a written agreement.


                  In other words you're happy to risk loosing this tenancy for the sake of two phone calls; one to update the council that you live there lone and another to inform then it's no longer the case.

                  If the LL doesn't want the hassle, he should advertise the whole property for rent as one unit.


                    Originally posted by Delectable1 View Post
                    In other words you're happy to risk loosing this tenancy for the sake of two phone calls; one to update the council that you live there lone and another to inform then it's no longer the case.
                    1. I don't think there was any suggestion that the tenancy might be lost over this issue, whatever the outcome of the council tax question.
                    2. It's still an HMO as far as I can see, in which case there is nothing to call the council about.
                    There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.


                      My second paragraph explains how it'll be lost.


                        OK, I see your point.

                        Ending the current tenancies and re-letting to a single household may seem excessive in order to save on cost of council tax for a limited period.

                        Of course there are other factors to consider that we don't know about and as such yes, LL might consider a change of tenancy to be a rational course of action. But anyway, if it is an HMO now - which seems to be the case - then LL is responsible for CT.
                        There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.


                          There is no licencing involved, it's only a HMO for CT purposes.
                          (I actually did an FoI last year and got a list of all the registered/licenced HMOs in this area, our property isn't on it).

                          There is no question of eviction either, we have been here 10 years now and are a lot more respectable/responsible than most of his other tenants around here. (I know some of them, you wouldn't like them).

                          Thinking about things I may be more inclined to do my LL a favour and have the CT put into my name.
                          As I say I'm on disability benefit so would get full CTR, the situation with my sharer (when he comes back) might be a bit more of a complication with him having his main resdience elsewhere and only being here part of the week.
                          The main possible issue that I see is with the council wanting to know why the responsibility for CT has suddenly changed with no change of tenant/TA.
                          They may start wondering if it's an attempt at benefit fraud; it isn't it's simply a change of circumstances, but anything that raises such a flag can be a pain to deal with when it comes to benefits.
                          Any LL with a tenant on benefits can attest to the problems even the slightest query can cause with benefit payments.
                          I'll do some more thinking.


                            Just to update this seven months on.

                            I've been talking to the landlord today, first time I've seen him in months, and he is pushing for this change to CT liability again.

                            I'm inclined to do it, but explained that I will need a new, written, TA showing a 'Single Tenanted Property' in my name to give to the council.

                            Which then gives the LL the issue of getting all the paperwork in order to issue a valid TA.
                            I know that he can't do that for a while, he only has a partial GSC (boiler service only nothing else, eg. the gas hob, included), and hasn't done an EICR.
                            There is an EPC with an 'E' rating, no deposit to worry about, and the right to rent, etc. is easy enough.

                            He has an amazing lack of knowledge of a LL's legal responsibilities, either that or he's feigning ignorance in the hope that his tenants don't know and will just go along with whatever he suggests..

                            PS. I also don't think he realises just how much getting the EICR done and then getting the electrics up to standard is going to cost him, although he does seem now to realise that he has to get it done anyway, new tenancy or not, he seems to think it will just be a matter of a visual inspection and replacing a few dodgy sockets.

                            One other potential problem that I see with getting a new tenancy in place and the CT put into my name is the absent sharer.
                            As far as I see although not here he still has a valid tenancy, albeit verbal and with months of arrears as it seems he hasn't been paying rent.
                            So with the current eviction situation then unless he surrenders his tenancy the LL can't issue a new tenancy for the whole property.

                            PS. The strangest thing is that when I suggested he put the rent up because it's currently below LHA, he didn't seem interested at all.
                            As he hasn't put the rent up for years that would be a 13% increase on the current rent that he could be getting simply for giving a s13 or just a covering letter.

                            I might start looking for a council/social property rental again.


                              Even if it's just you there, if he retains some rooms for himself (or so he can rent them later to someone else). then it might not be a HMO in the usual sense,but would be a "HMO for council tax purposes" so he'd be responsible for all council tax

                              The absent sharer , as they are not living there any more, can no longer have an AST or AT. But still has a tenancy. Even though not paying rent

                              Someone can have 27 tenancies, but only one will be an AST, regardless of paperwork.

                              Sounds like LL is err.....
                              I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...


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