Over the past years, HMO compliance has tightened up but, despite this, there will, sadly, always be rogue landlords out there putting the lives of their tenants at risk.
Following the shocking Grenfell Tower fire back in 2017, the Government has reviewed fire safety legislation and began a consultation in July 2020 to consider the whole system to ensure that such a catastrophe never recurs (and, arguably, that the Government is more protected!).
With up to 11m people in the UK living in buildings with unsafe cladding and therefore potentially also being trapped in them due to them being un-mortgageable, in February, the Government announced that £3.5 billion was earmarked for removal of unsafe cladding. However, this fell short of providing support to all those who required it with numerous people in buildings under 18 meters still having to bear the cost (over £30k for many!).
What Are the Proposed Changes?
The Government published their response to this consultation on 17th March which says that once legislation is in place, unlimited fines will be handed out to building owners not only breaching fire safety regulations, but also those caught obstructing (or impersonating) a fire inspector.
This is a significant development which will exclude residential properties but include HMOs and other multi-tenancy residential properties. With the additional Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 legislation which is soon to be upgraded, HMO investors must ensure they keep abreast of the upcoming changes.
In addition to the introduction of unlimited fines, improved and mandatory risk assessments will be required to be recorded for each individual building. Furthermore, there will be improvements to the way information pertaining to fire safety is communicated to relevant regulatory bodies.
Whilst this is certainly good news for HMO tenants, we are hoping that the new regulations do not lead to significant material changes needing to be carried out by landlords without any additional support to do so.
Current HMO Fire Safety Regulations
Currently, all HMOs must undergo a fire risk assessment and any new regulations are likely to be a reinforcement and extension of existing measures. Every year, this must be reviewed to account for any changes to the fire risk of the property or to account for tenant occupation in the property.
In addition to this, all HMOs should have appropriate fire doors, with the correct fire-retardant materials used for any furniture and furnishings. Landlords must also ensure that fire exits are kept clear at all times and a fire blanket is supplied in the kitchen.
ALL HMOs, licensed or not, must implement a system of interlinked smoke alarms, where the property requires it (check your council’s requirements about whether a smoke alarm is needed for your property).
There is also a requirement of regular testing of the fire alarm normally every week or bi-weekly with appropriate records of tests being kept.
Help to Avoid a Compliance Nightmare!
With the ever-changing and increasing regulations HMO investors need to meet, it is vital that you keep abreast of and up to date with current legislation!
To help with this, we have recently created and compiled a ten-page compliance guide which you can download here. This guide presents a summary of the crucial aspects that you need to be aware of.
We also run tailored discovery sessions to provide property investors with all the tools they require to either make their first investment, move into a new area, review, or expand their portfolio.
Sessions last two hours, cost £147 and have proved extremely helpful to both novice and experienced investors alike. You can find out more and book a session here.