When is a 257 not a 257?
One of the joys of holiday letting has been sloping off away from rules and regulations for a while, as the net tightens in the holiday let sphere (see last month's chat) housing regulators are struggling to let go. Unfortunately for us many of Southsea's holiday lets fall within 257HMO buildings.
Feeling somewhat pleased with myself that two of my 257s are not, in the eyes of PCC at the moment, 257s after all…
Like most of you I have been somewhat preoccupied with licensing this month. I have been gathering vast numbers of certificates, confirmations, floor plans etc. for the mammoth task of licensing my buildings and HMO. I have written and rewritten my applications only to have documents rejected, insufficient space to load what is required and felt irritated that I can't actually delete my poor early attempts by pressing the inoperative 'delete' button. The last minute addition of lengthy information for flats within blocks 'where we may have control' is vague and irrelevant to the extent of the 257, which, I believe, extends only to the common parts and shell of the building, essentially the 'freeholder bits'.
The issue of 257s seems like an afterthought on the part of PCC, the application has changed several times with the addition of extra information required and irrelevant or hard-to-answer questions about properties within our 257s that we may not be able to access readily. Is it appropriate to control smoke alarm testing in a tenanted property? Is it reasonable to inspect monthly to ensure that a fire blanket is present? I would say that this is intrusive and not in the spirit of allowing them quiet enjoyment of their rented property.
Is a holiday let a residential use? We pay business rates and declare our income as a business, not an investment so according to HMRC we are not. The VOA classes us as business rates use, so we are not liable for Council Tax. Planning sees it in its own way with the imminent introduction of a new use class, C5, for holiday lets. Although class C refers to accommodation in general, it includes Hotels (C1), Accommodation with an element of care (C2), Residential (C3), HMO (C4) etc. The Housing Department does not have jurisdiction over Hotels or other C Class businesses. In their wisdom, PCC have decided to exclude 257s that are less than 66% rented. It was confirmed to me this week that Holiday Let properties are not considered to be rented so I can advise with confidence that your holiday let 257, whole or part (unless more than 66% rented), does not require a licence. This is great news.
I have, however, loaded a draft licence onto the PCC system and would suggest that you have your ducks in a row should they change their minds. I have used their system to apply for a 257TEN (Temporary Exemption Notice) for each building that is majority holiday let, so that they are aware of the building. Bearing in mind that if I revert to AST lettings in these properties that they will become licensable. I look forward to a December of installing plenty of smoke alarms, fire safety folders to gather dust and making noticeboards that will go unread. With the job now done I can enjoy the holiday season and wish you all a Very Merry Christmas.