Do Single Men Watch Love Island Together?
Sounds like a Philip K Dick story but this was one of the big questions answered by local Chartered Surveyor and landlord, Josette Knight, at our August meeting when she passionately exposed PCC policy on communal space and lounges as unrealistic and unnecessary and pleaded for help for her 'boys' who had been homeless when PCC placed them with her, but who she now must evict because of PCC policy.
In her day job, Josette values properties for mortgages - perhaps 5 or 6 a day - and ever since Portsmouth introduced communal space standards, she has checked the properties she inspects against the current rules to see if it would comply as an HMO.
Why does she do this? Because she had a 5-bed HMO licensed under the 2013-2018 scheme operated by Portsmouth City Council. When that scheme ended, the mandatory scheme changed such that any 5-bed HMO needed a 'Mandatory Licence' rather than an 'Additional Licence' (same pain / different piece of paper). When she applied, she was told her previously perfectly acceptable 5-bed HMO was no longer big enough and she was advised to reduce it to 4-beds, converting the room that was previously a bedroom into an additional 'lounge'.
To do this, she had to evict the tenant in that room - but rules are rules and she felt she had no choice, so she complied and evicted a perfectly happy tenant and put two sofas in the now empty room.
The Communal Space Conspiracy
A short clip of Josette's view on what PCC are trying to achieve with their communal space standards and what the impact could be - we know from the August meeting around 60 of the 120 attendees are reducing their HMO stock as a result of the introduction of Additional Licensing. Personally, I can vouch for this - having reduced my own holding of small HMO's by 50% as I can't face arguing about whether a room is 9.9 or 10.1 sq metres and my remaining small HMOs may not last the year, depending on the experience of applying for an Additional Licence.
Everyone Needs A Nice Lounge, Don't They?
The concept of ensuring nice homes for people to live in is a good one - but sadly, PCC officers have absolutely no idea how people live in HMOs. For example, all of my HMO tenants are on individual AST contracts as the Uni prefer that approach yet I only let to groups of friends and as a result, I often find them congregated in the kitchen or lounge when I visit - yet my HMOs are 'high risk' according to the PCC definition simply because I choose to contract inline with Uni recommendations.
Conversely, Josette has housed formerly homeless individuals brought to her by PCC Housing Options and as you hear in this clip, they have moved the sofas to their own rooms, leaving the lounge (once home to a previously evicted tenant) empty and used as an internal bike store...
Homeless, Housed, Soon to be Homeless Again
It seems criminal that Josette will need to evict her 'boys' as a result of Additional Licensing - listen to her anguish.
You can listen to the whole of Josette's comments here:
And the whole meeting can be viewed / heard on the PDPLA website: www.pdpla.com/members
It should be noted that Josette was not an outlier - her views and comments were shared by many in the room and others had similar stories. Sadly, she articulates well the sentiment of the vast majority of our members and it is no surprise that the sector is rapidly shrinking as a result of the prolonged siege of ever more demanding PCC standards.
And Another Unexpected Outcome
We are already seeing evidence of mortgage companies rejecting HMOs locally as they do not meet their stringent interpretation of local standards. The outcome is that some landlords who had decided to weather the storm and stay in the local HMO market will be forced to drop out by lenders or have to go for much more costly deals, if they can get them - both of which will put even more pressure on rents.