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A quick guide to converting HMOs

16th September 2016

With property prices ever increasing and successive governments taxing income from property more and more each year, landlords and property investors are often  turning to houses of multiple occupation sometimes known as HMOs for higher rates of return.

So why do HMO give landlords and property investors a higher rate of return?  Well essentially this is down to the fact that HMO properties are rented out by the room rather than as a whole property. 

So how do you achieve these higher rents and higher rates of return? 

What you do is you create a situation for individual single tenants where the rent is affordable. Note the word affordable here. We're not saying that it wouldn't be cheaper to rent a whole property if you were say in a couple or in a group but if you are renting on your own and have no one to share the costs with then renting a room in a shared house will ultimately be cheaper.

So what creates an attractive proposition for such a single tenant? 

Well I would say first of all it is having a room in a house which is literally ready to go. Nothing more required than bringing your own small possessions and clothes and getting settled in.  

Why is this important? Because it keeps costs down and it allows people to move quickly. 

What this means to you as someone thinking of converting a property into an HMO is that you need to ensure that the rooms large enough to be comfortable and that the property is sufficiently furnished and well equipped - to all intensive purposes so it’s ready for someone can move into it in the same way they would a hotel room.

You also need to ensure the property that you are thinking of converting into an HMO is in a location which your tenants will want to live in. Please see my article on choosing the location  for are HMO for more details on this.

But what about the legal constraints for creating or converting an HMO?

You may have heard that there is a lot of legislation surrounding converting and running an HMO and you'd be right. Due to the nature of HMOs and the number of people that live in them, there are naturally concerns about ensuring that the occupants are safe and secure. Iit is no longer a situation where there is a single family unit where people are looking out for each other but instead 5 or 6 individuals and it can't be it can't be assumed that they are all cooperating in keeping the property safe.

So what can you do as a landlord to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law when converting a regular residential property to an HMO? 

Firstly I would say invest in your own education.  There are plenty of courses run by industry experts who will teach you everything you need to know relating both to the legislation and the practicalities of converting a property to be a compliant and functional HMO.

Secondly, speak to a local agent you have a working knowledge of he knows not just from a theoretical point of view from the practical experience of actually letting and managing them.  take it from me there a lot of different skills and knowledge required to safely and successfully let and manage an HMO.

Thirdly, don't underestimate the amount of time which managing as an HMO will take.  you may think at the outset it is just a large terraced house but if it is 6 bedroom HMO then in reality what you have are six houses with six separate tenancies 6 separate tenants 6 lots of questions problems rent to chase and other usual repair and maintenance issues.

As a landlord myself and having managed my own and families properties myself I can attest to the fact that whilst it is perfectly possible to manage one rental property what even 2 or 3 whilst holding down a full time job it is very difficult to manage any more than that and retain a healthy work life balance.  This is why I say to any landlords or property investors thinking of buying or creating / converting a property to an HMO, factor in the costs of professional management.

Is there any specific legislation which you should be aware of?

The short answer is yes lots but in a nutshell the main things you need to bear in mind or and this is in no particular order

  • minimum room sizes
  • emergency lighting
  • fire risk assessments
  • Fire doors
  • smoke detectors
  • heat detectors
  • minimum numbers of Bathrooms and sinks
  • article 4 restrictions
  • large HMO (more than 6 bedrooms) planning requirements

For more help, information and advice about converting the residential property to an HMO what any other aspects of owning, letting or managing an HMO in Birmingham please contact us on 0121 405 0389.

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