The year was 2018, and the tale was as old as time, when once upon a time all seemed to be going so well and the happy ending was nigh.
Really, the happy ending was nigh.
Well, just around the corner, over the treacherous path of planning regulation and licensing at the Local Authority, or so one man thought, that he may even try his luck.
Most London Councils including the London Borough of Ealing have implemented mandatory, selective, or standard licensing for properties that are in the privately rented sector, along with these licensing requirements comes the hazy topic of Houses of Multiple Occupation or HMOs, which for some investors can be a lucrative business model. However, it comes with certain pitfalls and a plethora of requirements and regulations.
None of these requirements are difficult, it just maintains a safe living standard for the renters and ensures that for a property with an above average number of residents is suitable for their needs; minimum requirements of room sizes, number of shared facilities and safe environments with working smoke alarms and fire safety at the forefront of importance.
Last month, In the case of Paramaguru v London Borough of Ealing, Mr. Justice Supperstone was asked by local landlord Sinnathurai Paramaguru to rule on the judgement made by Ealing Magistrates Court that children up to 18 years of age can be classified as residents under the jurisdiction of Class C4 of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987, and whether the magistrates had jurisdiction to state a case.
This appeal was heard in the High Court and subsequently the Ruling was upheld Mr. Justice Supperstone.
Prior to this the landlord had allowed the property to be occupied by the maximum number of allowed residents for a Small HMO as a class C4 property and the children of a number specified in the court documents. However, the issue came from the appellant and representation for LB Ealing, that the landlord was in fact in breach of Planning Enforcement after being instructed to reformat the property to the original stated structure after previous planning application appeals had failed.
The appellant had failed to do so, so there were two items on the agenda in this case.
Are dependent children, or children classed as residents in a property Class C4 and/or a licensed HMO
Was the property developed under permitted development and therefore, there was no need to apply for retrospective planning?
It was determined, that in the case of Children being classed as residents in a class C4 property, that this would not be the case, as how would one manage the issue if an expecting mother gave birth whilst in residence? What would be the consequence of that? It would appear a bit draconian to evict a mother, simply because she has had a child.
However, in the definition of an HMO, children would be classed as residents
Section 34 of the appeal notes state:
'If Mr Webster were correct, then children would be excluded for purposes of Class C4, but included for purposes of HMOs which would be directly contrary to the express injunction in the Class C4 interpretation section (see para 30 above). As Ms Phillips points out, if Parliament had intended various categories of persons not to be included in the term 'residents' it would have said so. Instead it said to the contrary, namely that for the purposes of Class C4 a HMO has (save in the case of a converted block of flats) the same meaning as in HA 2004 s.254.'
This does prove some challenges in the licensing schemes within the Borough of Ealing. However, noted is the fact that the majority of renters who apply to occupy a part of a property that has an issued and granted HMO license are likely to be starting out on their property journey.
Young professionals in the accommodation, single or couples, depending on the license conditions are most in need of this affordable accommodation.
What is it that the Mayor of London keeps on talking about?
So why should the local authority restrict properties that are suitable for HMO use, to provide more affordable accommodation for those in need?
It always appears that the “just starting out” or the “recent university leavers” etc are the ones most hard hit by the extortionate cost of renting, rent in advance, Deposit etc really makes the cost of living that much harder in the capital.
There is nothing wrong with HMOs or the fact that the City needs more of them, they just need to be a minimum safe standard and in line with license conditions.
From a resident’s point of view, for example, heating and hot water, gas, electric, and internet, paid for by the landlord and supplied by reputable suppliers.
Too long the Government and Housing Minister has been banging on against Rogue Landlord this, and Rogue Landlord that. But what about the Good Landlords who go out of their way to go that bit further, to ensure that the home that a renter is living in is always meeting their expectations?
Cases such as Paramaguru v London Borough of Ealing are somewhat rare at the moment, if Landlords consistently follow the license conditions and maintain the minimum standards then the ability to provide affordable accommodation will flourish.
Enough of tarring all Landlords with the same brush. There are Landlords who are Members with relevant regulatory Bodies and do everything to ensure homes are provided. Not just accommodation, but Homes, where people can live their lives and create a safe space for themselves.
So, whilst this article may have started out with the topic of Children being residents in HMOs, it really has ended with the following Conclusion:
Good Landlords are out there and there are more Good landlords than Rogue ones. Use the information from the National Landlord’s Association or Residential Landlord’s Association to find those that are accredited.