HMO Property Management in Nottingham – by an experienced HMO letting agent

- 15/12/2023

Est. 14 mins

 

HMO Management in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire – Key Considerations

Navigating the world of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in Nottinghamshire can be a complex endeavour, filled with regulatory hurdles, tenant management challenges, and financial considerations. Whether you’re a seasoned landlord or a newcomer to the property investment scene, this comprehensive blog post is designed to be your ultimate guide. We’ll delve into what an HMO property actually is, weigh the pros and cons of investing in one, and offer key insights into achieving long-term success. From mandatory licensing requirements specific to Nottingham City to the role of HMO managers, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also explore the nuances of tenant relations, property management services, and even touch on the all-important Article 4 directive. By the end of this read, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions in the HMO market.

What is an HMO property?

 

 

A HMO property is a House in Multiple Occupation and this basically means that a group of unrelated tenants will rent the bedrooms in a house and share the communal facilities. So instead of being granted exclusive use of the entire house, they will only have exclusive use of a bedroom (which may or may not be ensuite). 

It is fairly standard for HMO rent to include all bills (gas, electricity, water, council tax, broadband etc) which makes HMO living an attractive an convenient option. The landlord is responsible for paying the bills and of course organising maintenance, which would be the case for traditional buy-to-let. Providing you invest in an area of good demand to keep occupancy levels high, they can be a very lucrative option.

Some HMO’s will require planning permission from the local council, some will fall under mandatory licensing (and therefore adequate amenities to obtain such licence) and some smaller HMO’s can be set up without either. It’s largely area and property specific, although there are national standards which apply across the board too. 

 

Are HMOs a good investment?

 

As with any investment there are risks and rewards and generally as the reward increases, so does the risk and nothing changes with HMOs. Gross monthly rents are higher than traditional Buy-to-Let and the net profits are generally higher too, however suitable properties are more difficult to find and when you do, you are likely to be competing with several other investors like yourself, who are looking for the perfect project!

With an ever increasing demand for rental property and such a dwindling supply, HMO’s are becoming increasingly popular. It’s not only cost effective for the tenants, but you can accommodate multiple, unrelated people in one house. With this demand comes an increase in rents, but also higher expectations around quality and management.

As a result of multiple, unrelated tenants living under one roof, you can also expect increased wear and tear, higher usage of utilities and this all has to be factored into your deal analysis and especially you refurbishment plans.

Fundamentally, the same investment principles still apply to HMO’s. Properties in areas with good amenities and transport links, developed to a good standard and managed well, will perform for the long term and stand the best chance of being a profitable investment. 

 

What’s the best way to achieve success with a HMO?

 

Investing in a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) can be very rewarding. Success in this specialised property market is contingent upon a multitude of factors, each contributing to the overall viability and profitability of the investment. Below are some considerations for prospective HMO investors:

Location and Demand

It sounds obvious, but selecting an area with a demand for shared accommodation is most important!

The location should not only be desirable but also demonstrate a consistent or growing need for HMOs, thereby ensuring a stable tenant base.

Property Selection

If a suitable property is not available on the market, resist the temptation to compromise on quality or fit. An unsuitable property can lead to long-term challenges that may negate any short-term financial gains.

Due Diligence on Partners

Before committing to a purchase, conduct thorough due diligence on all parties involved, including letting agents and contractors. The quality of your professional relationships can significantly impact the success of your investment.

Realistic ROI Expectations

Maintain a realistic perspective on your Return on Investment (ROI). While quick wins are appealing, HMOs are generally a long-term investment. Your financial projections should reflect this time horizon.

Property Refurbishment

Whenever feasible, opt for a comprehensive “back to brick” refurbishment over merely “making good” on existing structures. This approach often yields a more reliable and durable property, reducing long-term maintenance costs.

Engage Local HMO Officers

Involve the local HMO officer at the earliest opportunity, even if it incurs an initial cost. These officers are instrumental in the licensing process and can provide invaluable guidance on compliance requirements, particularly where local requirements differ from national.

Broadband Infrastructure

Do not compromise on broadband services. Opt for a fast and reliable service provider, as quality internet is often a non-negotiable amenity for prospective tenants.

Choose Experienced Letting Agents

Select a letting agency with proven experience in managing HMOs, ideally one operated by individuals who are also investors. Their expertise can offer nuanced insights that can be invaluable for your investment.

Manage Expectations

Finally, temper your financial expectations. Revenue from HMOs can fluctuate due to various factors, including seasonal demand and economic conditions. It’s crucial to prepare for these variances and not to expect a consistent income stream.

In summary, a successful HMO investment is the result of meticulous planning, due diligence, and ongoing management. By adhering to these guidelines, investors can significantly enhance their prospects for long-term success in the HMO market.

How are landlord responsibilities and regulations different for HMOs than with a traditional family let?

 

 

It’s imperative to understand that the regulatory landscape for HMOs is considerably more complex than that for traditional residential lets. This section aims to highlight the key differences in landlord responsibilities, particularly focusing on mandatory licensing, planning permission, fire safety measures, and room size requirements.

Mandatory Licensing

First and foremost, the necessity for mandatory licensing sets HMOs apart from standard residential properties. Under the Housing Act 2004, it is a legal obligation for landlords to obtain a license if the property is rented to five or more individuals who form more than one household. This licensing is not merely a procedural formality; it is a critical measure to ensure that the property meets specific health and safety standards. Failure to comply can result in severe penalties, including fines and potential disqualification from operating an HMO.

Planning Permission

Another significant difference lies in planning permission requirements. While traditional residential lets often do not require planning permission, HMOs sometimes do, particularly if there is a “change of use” from a single dwelling to a multi-occupancy property with more than seven occupants. It’s worth noting that Nottingham City (and many other areas around the UK) enforces an Article 4 directive, adding an additional layer of scrutiny to the planning permission process. However, areas like Mansfield do not currently have this directive in place, offering a somewhat more lenient planning environment.

Fire Safety Measures

Fire safety regulations for HMOs are notably more stringent than those for standard residential properties. Landlords are obligated to install fire alarm systems and emergency lighting that meet specific regulatory standards. These measures are not optional; they are essential for ensuring the safety and well-being of tenants living in the property. The systems often require interconnected alarms and may even necessitate a centralised, “Grade-A” panel.

Minimum Room Size

Lastly, HMOs are subject to minimum room size regulations, which are rigorously enforced by the local council. Unlike standard lets, where there may be some flexibility, HMOs must adhere to these minimum requirements strictly. Non-compliance could result in penalties or even revocation of the HMO license.

In summary, while HMOs offer attractive financial returns, they come with a unique set of regulatory obligations that landlords must diligently fulfil. A comprehensive understanding of these rules is not just advisable—it is indispensable for any investor considering venturing into the HMO market.

What are the mandatory HMO licensing requirements in Nottinghamshire?

 

 

Whilst there are national HMO requirements, most local authorities will have their own layer of requirements too. Local authorities can make the national requirements more restrictive, but not less. Understanding the national requirements as well as the local mandatory HMO licensing criteria is crucial for both landlords and letting agents, as failure to comply can result in severe penalties. The following requirements apply to Nottingham, but most will apply to other areas as well.

Who Needs a License?

Firstly, it’s essential to identify if your HMO property falls under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. In Nottingham City, any property that houses 5 or more people who form two or more separate households is required to have a license. These tenants live together and share basic amenities such as a kitchen, bathroom, or toilet. This is more of a generic requirments and applies in most areas of the UK.

Application Process

More and more councils are moving to online applications, which makes things easier as supporting documents can simply be uploaded and licence fees paid all at the same time. Where online applications are not accepted, there will be a paper application which can be downloaded from the local authority website. Nottingham City applications are online, as are Ashfield, but Mansfield are still using paper applications.

The application process involves a thorough review by the council to ensure that the landlord and the property meet specific licensing requirements. This often includes background checks, property inspections, and even interviews with prospective tenants. It’s advisable to consult experienced letting agents in your chosen investment area who specialise in HMOs to guide you through this complex process. Purseglove Property offer this as a service to our clients, which takes all of the hassle.

Amenities and Occupancy

The council pays close attention to the amenities provided in the HMO property. These include, but are not limited to, kitchens, bathrooms, and toilets. The quality and number of these amenities are assessed based on the occupancy level, ensuring that they are adequate for the number of tenants living in the property. For Nottingham City and surrounding districts, the guidelines published by DASH (Decent And Safe Homes) are used. They can be downloaded from here.

Council Tax and Other Fees

In addition to the licensing fees, landlords must also consider the implications on council tax. Different areas of Nottinghamshire may have varying council tax requirements for HMOs, which can impact the fixed monthly income generated from the property.

As tenants expectations grow around amenities, more and more investors are creating HMO accommodation which is more like a self contained unit, with small kitchens as well as ensuite facilities. The VOA (Valuation Office Agency) are banding an increasing number of HMO’s as taxable per room rather than per property. It is important to bear this in mind as it could be the difference between a profitable investment and the property becoming a financial liability.

Article 4 Directive

It’s worth noting that Nottingham City has an Article 4 directive in place, which adds another layer of regulation for HMOs. Many cities have introduced this as a way of controlling the number of HMO’s. This directive removes the permitted development rights for changing a dwelling house into a small HMO. Therefore, planning permission is often required even for smaller HMOs, making it crucial for landlords to be aware of this additional requirement.

Renewal & Change of Ownership

Licenses are not indefinite and will need to be renewed periodically. The council will notify landlords well in advance of the expiration date, but it’s the landlord’s responsibility to initiate the renewal process. Failure to renew can result in the revocation of the license and legal repercussions.

If you purchase a HMO where there is a licence already in place, it’s important to note that it does not carry over. You must apply for a new licence in your own name.

Fire Checks & Servicing

When you develop a HMO, the local HMO officer will usually advise what grade of fire protection is required. This is not only property specific, but can also differ between local authorities. Whichever system is installed, it must be serviced and tested accordingly. In the areas we operate, we test fire systems weekly and keep a log, with full services being carried out every 6 months.

Each system will be tested in a specific way, it is not as simple as just pressing the test button on the first detector head you come to when entering the property.

Role of Letting Agents

Letting agents can play a pivotal role in ensuring compliance with all mandatory HMO licensing requirements. Their expertise can be invaluable, especially for landlords who are new to the HMO market or those who manage multiple properties.

In summary, mandatory HMO licensing, not only in Nottingham, but all over the UK involves a multi-faceted approach that requires meticulous attention to detail from landlords. From understanding the specific requirements for amenities based on occupancy, to staying abreast of council tax implications and the Article 4 directive, compliance is key for a successful HMO venture.

What is a ‘household’ for the purposes of a HMO?

 

 

The Housing Act 2004 defines a “household” as a family, or for example a couple who are living together. In the context of HMO accommodation, a property becomes an HMO when it is rented to individuals from more than one ‘household,’ sharing amenities like kitchens and bathrooms. This means you could have two single people who form two households, or you could have two families forming two households.

Understanding the legal definition of a ‘household’ is crucial for landlords to determine whether their property falls under HMO regulations.

How do you decide the level of rent?

Rent is largely driven by the market demand, just as with any business. Where demand for something is higher than the supply, the price is driven upwards. 

If you are in a market where there are an abundance of HMO’s, but all poor quality and there is a demand for a higher quality HMO, then you can target this demand and achieve higher rents.

Doing plenty of due diligence on an area is vital and there are many ways you can gather this information. Speaking to reputable local agents with HMO experience is one way, but you can also look on websites such as spareroom.com to verify what you’ve been advised. 

HMO Management – What does an HMO manager do?

 

 

An HMO manager plays a pivotal role in the seamless operation of a House of Multiple Occupation. Their responsibilities extend far beyond traditional property management in Nottingham or elsewhere. From the initiation of a tenancy to its conclusion, the HMO manager is the linchpin that ensures compliance with HMO licence requirements and provides a high-quality property management service.

Tenancy and Occupier Relations

One of the primary roles of an HMO manager is to manage tenancy agreements and maintain healthy relations with occupiers. This involves everything from conducting initial viewings to addressing tenants’ concerns throughout their stay in the shared property.

Management and Maintenance

The HMO manager is responsible for the day-to-day management and maintenance of the property. This includes routine inspections, coordinating repairs, and ensuring that all communal areas are kept in good condition. Their role is particularly crucial for HMO landlords who may not have the time or expertise to manage these aspects themselves.

Waste Management

Waste management is another critical area overseen by the HMO manager. Given that HMOs often have more occupants than standard rental properties, effective waste management strategies are essential to maintain a clean and habitable environment.

In summary, an HMO manager wears many hats, serving as the go-between for tenants and landlords while ensuring that the property adheres to all regulatory requirements. Their comprehensive property management service is invaluable for HMO landlords, particularly in complex regulatory landscapes like Nottingham.

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