As we reported just before Christmas a number of members with licensable HMOs have been told they have insufficient communal space for the number of occupants they have been accommodating. PCC officers are issuing licenses for one year and then expect the landlord to sacrifice one bedroom. Structural alterations may be an alternative. This is despite the same properties having been inspected and licensed previously under additional licensing. So far the properties that have been singled out are those with limited additional communal space than is offered by the kitchen / kitchen-diner.
There are no national standards for communal space but local authorities can produce their own. They should not be too prescriptive as the property must be looked at as a whole. Following the introduction of 'Mandatory Licensing" of all 5 occupant HMOs they are being re-examined using stricter acceptability criteria against PCC local standards. Either the original inspections were lax or officers are now being overzealous.
Here at the PDPLA we have long argued against the unfair treatment student landlords receive from Portsmouth City Council - we get hounded for every possible penny of council tax whereas student halls, which are directly comparable, pay nothing.
There was some good news last month when a valuation tribunal rejected an appeal from a student letting agency which effectively gave Leicester City Council (and all other councils) the ability to treat each student room as a separate dwelling and to charge council tax on that dwelling in exactly the same way they charge us.
We have raised this with local councillors and the appropriate council officers and whilst councillors are keen to ensure that the we are treated fairly compared to our competitors, we still have some way to go with council staff.
The 'Fitness For Habitation Bill' just passed into law. We supported it as did most other landlord associations but there are elements of the wording of the final bill which are cause for concern. One of those is the desire to scrap Section 21 evictions.
The bill started as a private members bill championed by MP Karen Buck. See below the letter sent to her on our behalf by committee member, Tony Athill...
With tax self assessments due by 31st January each year, this month is an important time for you to understand tax.
The RLA is organising a free specialist tax webinar at 2pm on 14th January. For more details..
OK - you can see why DC Comics went with Superman in 1938. Damp Man probably would not have given DC the success that led them to go on and create Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and so many others. But Damp Man has one big advantage over all of DC"s superheroes and that is that he is real and can be found in Gosport!
Our suggestion to members is they take advantage of his presence and drop in on him in Gosport or better still, ask him to drop in on you - he may not do so as dramatically as Superman would, but you will be just as pleased when he eradicates the bad guys for you. Read on to hear of one members experience….
I was talking to Hayling Island"s oldest resident the other day - no not fellow committee member Julian, he is a mere stripling compared to the old guy I met. He doesn"t say much, if anything at all, but he is a good listener and has been doing it for a long time.
I was complaining about the just announced landlord redress scheme, trying to work out which particular problem it was supposed to solve and complaining about the inevitable extra bureaucracy for no apparent benefit that was the most likely outcome. We already give out 'How To Rent" guides - do tenants ever read them? No. We join tenancy deposit schemes, have they made a jot of difference? No. So why do we now need a redress scheme? He just sat there and listened - as I said, he is a good listener, he has been doing it all his life and he is over 2,000 years old.
Yes, you read that right, 2,000 years old. He has a couple of brothers who are twice his age and a cousin who is believed to be 5,000 years old
Some of you will have seen the question about a plague of mice which I sent to all members using the questions@ facility - it appears we have an incredible amount of experience in our membership on this particular topic, read on to find out what I learnt plus some observations on how to use questions@.
Over 50 members turned out on what was probably our snowiest night of the year to hear Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South and to share with him our views on a wide range of topics.
There are properties which were OK under additional licensing and some of these were also accredited by PCC, but now they are having their occupancy reduced and only being granted a 1-year licence for the number requested under Mandatory Licensing. (See prior notification to members)
In this case, as many of these decisions appear to have been made simply on a desktop evaluation of the plans submitted for previous inspections, we came up with the ROBBED acronym (Reduced Occupancy By Basic Evaluation on Desktop)
The issue is predominantly whether the property has sufficient communal space. Elsewhere, 12-15 sq m is adequate but Portsmouth are looking for up to 34 sq m. Interesting as one student we spoke to this week said, "The kitchen has one cooker with only one cooking shelf, a 4 ring hob and 3 fridges and 2 freezers which are not sufficient for the 6 students, 2 sinks with draining boards, a microwave and toaster. We have had to provide our own kettle. We eat using a section of work surface where the toaster and microwave are situated which is the only work surface we have for food preparation in our very small kitchen. There is not sufficient room for all 6 to be in the kitchen at one time or indeed to be able to cook at one time. " - diabolical you say, no wonder PCC are rejecting them. Well, actually, this is one they are fine with - it is James Watson House, one of the student halls managed by Unite for the University of Portsmouth and approved by PCC.
We know that at least 10 members are already affected by ROBBED and as a result, we have a virtual 'class action" of 6 of these cases going to the First Tier Tribunal and we hope for a decision in March.
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.