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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Is it now easier or tougher to create HMOs?

Just now Linka pointed out that the landlord of the Duckett Road property on the planning applications I posted on today is seeking to create an 11 person HMO from a propert that's currently two flats.

In his application he says:

"In accordance with recent legislation, our proposal to convert the flat from use-class C3 to C4 as a HMO is lawful. The new unit will consist of three ‘Rooms’, two of which will share a basic amenity in the form of a shower room. The HMO will provide occupancy for up to 5 people. The proposed bedrooms exceed minimum area requirements, and all of the ‘Rooms’ have a private kitchen. Room 3 (the single bedroom) is totally self-contained.

The proposal acknowledges the Council’s desire to increase the standard of HMO’s within the area. Haringey Council's 'Supplementary Planning Document' recognises the significance of HMO's, and confirms that they provide an important source of low-cost rented accommodation within the borough."

To the half-informed (like me), this suggests that it may now be easier to create HMOs. Does anyone know if this is right?

It appears that the recent approach adopted by the Council will tackle HMO quality but not the spread of HMOs. Legislation was passed to deal with areas being overwhelmed with HMOs, but Haringey Council have chosen not to adopt this. I'm told that this is because it is too expensive.

More informed opinions than mine most welcome.

Tags for Forum Posts: HMOs Article 4, hmos, new hmo controls, 2011

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What happens when an HMO is sold on, for example there is currently a three bedroom house for sale on Warham Road*  "that has been renovated to accommodate six good sized bedrooms which


 is currently receiving good revenue on a room let basis.... this property would make for an ideal rental investment or potential family home." 

ENTRANCE 

BEDROOM ONE 14'3" X 12'4" 

WALK IN SHOWER 

BEDROOM TWO 12' X 5' 

DOWNSTAIRS WC 

RECEPTION ROOM 15'5" X 11'3" 

KITCHEN 

SHOWER ROOM 

FIRST FLOOR 

BEDROOM THREE 11'3" X 6'9" 

BEDROOM FOUR 14'3" X 10'5" 

BEDROOM FIVE 11'5" X 6'9" 

SHOWER ROOM 

BATHROOM 

BEDROOM SIX 15'5" X 10'5" 

GARDEN

 

From the room dimensions and plan I would find it hard to believe that it received planning permission or is licensed. And the Estate Agent must be guilty of of mis description when he describes bedrooms which are 5 foot wide or 6 foot 9 inches wide as "good sized bedrooms". The only place to eat seems to be in the reception room however this seems to house a W C.

 

1/ If the house does not have planning permission, and it may well have for all I know, but if it doesn't can it be sold on as it is, or would it have to be "renovated" back to its original state.

2/ Are you allowed to sell houses which do not have planning permission?

3/ Will present legislation or the proposed licensing be able to stop such "renovations".

(I am happy to credit the estate agent with the descriptions etc if this is required)

 

*not to be confused with the adjacent house, also for sale, " ***INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY*** Freehold house currently arranged as separate dwellings with planning permission.Currently arranged as a ground floor two double bedroom garden conversion and further first floor two double bedroom conversion."

As I understand it, permission is with the property, not the owner. So the sale changes nothing.

If I have this house right Maggie, it was refused a Certificate of Lawfulness for use as four bedsits in November 2007. It may be being used as a shared dwelling which is legal. I think where it crosses the line is if it's been converted for use as separate dwelling units. Sinks in rooms and the absence of a common living area were the acid test in the case of the one I got involved with in Hewitt.

So, right now it may or may not be being used illegaly. If it is being used ilegally, it may now be possible for the owner to get permission to use as besits under the four year rule (i.e. get away with illegal behaviour for four years and not only do you not get punished, you've won).

With Haringey, it seems that the  only way to get illegal conversions reversed is for a local to report one to enforcement and then keep on enforcement's back until its sorted. I did one in Hewitt. It took 18 mos. If you or someone else in the road has the energy, get on to enforcement asap. They'll check if it's being legally used or not and if necessary can start the process of dealing with it.

The house next door was legally converted to flats in 1987.

"2/ Are you allowed to sell houses which do not have planning permission?"


I don't know, but I"m pretty sure that many estate agents DO advertise illegally-subdivided house conversions for rent and sale (having run the gamut of illegally converted places myself, and lived in one 3 storey HMO -shudder-). The conveyancing solicitor is supposed to check planning permission, I think; I"m sure that's a 'last resort' that has become essential.

 

As a footnote to all that, our present house was illegally subdivided into an 'upper' and 'lower' flat in the past by its previous owner. Not a peep from the estate agent, nor indeed much structural trace, but a total mess with the utilities records (who, seemingly, will accept and endorse any old haphazard arrangement, hence easy availability of documentation for retrospective permission applications).

 

It seems the new rules make HMO conversion potentially a bit more expensive (what, 'separate' bathrooms and  a nominal living area?), but still feasible.  Over in the Gardens, we're not covered by the new regs, I'd like to think because existing guidelines judge most of the houses too small to be approved as HMOs or subdivisions. Can of worms.

I think the issue of planning permission on the sale of a property is an issue only between buyer and seller. It's a case of caveat emptor. Then it's up to the new owner t ensure his property id legally compliant........in theory - I'm sure in practice landlords know that their chances of the law getting enforced in Haringey are relatively low.

This is really depressing news. Am guessing then that the new quality guidelines don't say anything about floor space per unit. If a ladder flat can be converted into 3 'rooms' (love the way that is put in inverted commas in the application) then I'm not that optimistic the new guidelines will have much affect in Harringay. Like Hugh would love to hear from someone who knows a little more. Perhaps one of our councillors could advise?

In my view the next few years are going to be critical when it comes to HMOs because presumably soon (already?) you'll be getting people leaving more central boroughs in London because of the new housing benefit rules. So all the more temptation for landlords to come up with new ways of cramming yet more people into their properties. 

Alison, I've invited the local councillors and the LCSP to comment.

Another issue I have found about HMOs is illustrated below:

I have spoken to several French people who live on Green Lanes. They told me that Paul Simon let the flats they live in to a French lettings agency who advertise in France and then they make (or offer) people shared rooms and the flats become overcrowded. The responsibility, or accountability,  becomes far removed, which is one of the problems of HMO's.

I loved that 'rooms' thing too. Inadvertent comedy.  This situation seems almost late Victorian and NYC's Tenement Museum came to mind. Googled the 1867 '1st Tenement Housing law' and it all seemed terribly familiar. I checked out the current battles against HMOs in Queens, NY and that all looks familiar too.

 

Is this comparable? "An illegal apartment conversion is a serious offense under the New York City Building Code, and can result in fines up to $15,000 and up to one year in jail."

http://www.tenant.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=4954

I have had the following message from Cllr Canver's office:

Cllr Canver is away at the moment but has asked me to let you know that she’ll respond to this when she returns.

It is true that in one respect the law governing the change of use from familiy house to HMO has been liberalised, but the liberalisation would not appear to extend to the changes which are proposed in this particular case. It would be helpful to quote from one of the two applications, both of which are expressed in similar terms.


"In accordance with recent legislation, our proposal to convert the flat from use-class C3 to C4 as a HMO is lawful. The new unit will consist of three ‘Rooms’, two of which will share a basic amenity in the form of a shower room. The HMO will provide occupancy for up to 5 people. The proposed bedrooms exceed minimum area requirements, and all of the ‘Rooms’ have a private kitchen. Room 3 (the single bedroom) is totally self-contained.

The proposal acknowledges the Council’s desire to increase the standard of HMO’s within the area. Haringey Council's 'Supplementary Planning Document' recognises the significance of HMO's, and confirms that they provide an important source of low-cost rented accommodation within the borough."

Pausing here, it is important to note two points about what the applicant intends to do. The first is that the applicant intends to create two HMOs in one building - namely one in each of the two self-contained flats of which that building is at present comprised. The second is that the applicant is proposing to divide each existing flat into two separate units – one of two rooms capable of being bedrooms and one of a single room – each of which will be self-contained in the sense that each will possess a kitchen and bathroom.

Now for some law.

It is essential to stress that the creation of an HMO and the subdivision of houses are two separate things. An HMO is a self contained unit in which people live who have no family or family-like tie to one another but who share essential living accommodation like a kitchen or a bathroom. A subdivision is the division of one self-contained unit into smaller self-contained units.

Recent changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 have made it possible , without planning permission, to change the use of a house or flat from single-family occupancy to HMO use, provided that the number of HMO occupants does not exceed 6. The reason for this change is that without such a general rule, local authorities would have an unnecessary regulatory burden in the many areas of the country where HMOs present no difficulty.  (Below I will mention how Harngey might exmept itself from this provision.) Of great importance, however, is the fact that these changes have no effect whatever on the subdivision of a house into a flat, or on the subdivision of flats into smaller self-contained units. Subdivisions still require planning permission.

The present case

The applicant in the present case, as I have noted, is firstly seeking a declaration that he may change each of the two flats into HMO use. Somewhat surprisingly he is probably right on this issue, unless the number of people whom he puts into each flat exceeds 6 (which he is not proposing to do) or unless the number of occupants creates statutory overcrowding (which at first glance appears not to be the case here).

However, because the applicant is also seeking to subdivide each flat into two self-contained units, I am of the view that he would require planning permission for that.

I will make the appropriate observations about that to the planning department.

A broader issue

It is possible, although the procedure is somewhat complicated and subject to judicial review if not done correctly, for a local authority to exempt itself from the regulations which provide automatic consent for changes of use. The device is known as an Article 4 direction. It is, in my view, arguable that Haringey ought to make such a direction applicable in Harringay and St. Ann’s Wards, because of the number of HMOs which there are and because of the intensification of use which could result if more landlords like the present applicant were to seek to create more than one HMO in a house.

Perhaps HoL members might wish to comment on this.

A final point

The applicant's suggestion that it is council policy to approve applications such as his is, in my view, far too general. I am certainly not aware of any such approach being taken by the Council with regard to this part of the Borough.

 

David Schmitz

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Harringay Ward

Thank you, David.

I wrote to local group LCSP to ask for their advice. They know as much about this area anyone in the field, pretty much. Here's their helpful reply:


The LCSP has studied the specific case of Duckett Rd and it doesn't look like good news. This is our understanding of the situation:

1. The owner is applying for a Cert of Lawfulness (Proposed) to convert the flats from C3 to C4

C3 (dwellinghouse) is basically a family/single person's home, C4 is a new class created Oct 2010 for small HMO's, occupied by between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals who share basic amenities.

Planning permission is not required to change between C3 and C4 as it is a 'permitted change of use', though it would be for an HMO of more than 3 people (or in a 3 storey building). There is perhaps a question mark whether a former dwelling house converted into 2 self-contained flats can be classed as 2 C4 HMOs rather than 1 large HMO (which would require planning permission), but this may be the case

2. The only grounds for challenging a change to C4 use are likely to be room sizes and/or overcrowding. Concerned residents should certainly request that the designated planning officer examines this aspect very closely with a site visit (crucial) to clarify precise configurations/layout/size of rooms etc

3. In this application, the Certificate of Lawfulness (Proposed) does not refer to the 4 or 10 year retrospective period of proof of use (which is not required for a 'permitted change of use') but is rather a 'belts and braces' approach by applicant to get the council to accept that what he proposed is permitted..

The house was anyway legally converted into 2 flats in 1987.

4. The good news is that from 1 Oct these HMOs (along with all others in Harringay Ward) will have to be registered in accordance with the new Additional Licensing Scheme and this will give the LBH Housing Team a second bite at the cherry to check that all relevant rules and regulations are being complied with.

Hope this is helpful, though obviously not what any of us would want to hear. Yes, small HMOs are now easier (but in our area also somewhat easier to ensure at least minimum standards)

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