New Northern Ireland HMO Regulations 2019

Campbell & Co in Belfast & Lisburn

28th January 2020

New Northern Ireland HMO Regulations 2019

Is this a form of Landlord Cleansing?

Will this lead to Landlords selling up?

Are all of the HMO regulations necessary?

Ultimately, could the strict new HMO regulations negatively impact on the already under-supplied rental market in Northern Ireland?

These are just a few of the questions being asked since Belfast City Council commenced enforcement of the HMO regulations from April 2019.

In April 2019 new regulations came into force for HMO (Houses of Multiple Occupation) in Northern Ireland. The regulations are known as Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Responsibility for the policing of HMO properties in Northern Ireland passed from the Housing Executive to local councils from 1st April.  

It was anticipated that the above changes would place additional burdens on Landlords and that the councils would be enforcing the regulations aggressively. This has indeed been the case.

Is this a form of Landlord cleansing?

While there is no evidence to support this, many believe that the council wish to reduce the number of HMO properties, particularly in certain areas. Those areas with a higher saturation of rental properties, such as the Holylands in the university area in Belfast, have been in the headlines often. Rowdy students drinking alcohol in public have caused nuisance and disturbance for local residents for years. No doubt a reduction in the number of HMO rental properties would be welcome by local residents in this area. There is little doubt the wide-ranging property requirements for HMO’s and the resulting expenditure required will inevitably lead to Landlords exiting the rental market.

Will this lead to Landlords selling up?

There are already some landlords who have withdrawn from the HMO rental market. We have direct experience of this. Some landlords have taken the view that the increased costs involved in meeting the new requirements are prohibitive. Some are asking why the new regulations place so many additional obligations on landlords. Does this mean the previous HMO regulations being enforced were unsafe? Was there any significant consultation with the industry? It would appear not.

Landlords are being forced to; install new boilers to meet minimum EPC rating, install new escape windows, install new additional electric smoke detectors and fire alarm systems, install new emergency lighting (even in standard 2 storey semi detached properties) and carry out many repairs which previously had not been required. In addition, landlords are required to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness with the NI planning office. HMO licences will not be granted without this planning approval. This alone, costs landlords anywhere from £1200 to over £2000. 

The cost for an HMO licence has also increased significantly, now costing £740 for a 4 bedroom property, or £185 per tenant.

We are seeing landlord expenditure at over £6000 in order to meet the new regulations.

Will the additional costs being forced onto Landlords have a negative effect on HMO property availability in the local market?

Are all of the HMO regulations necessary?

As a managing agent we work hard to ensure properties are safe and maintained to a high standard. Our landlords accept there are certain costs incurred when operating an HMO rental property. There are some works which Landlords do feel are unnecessary though.

This is a recent example from some of the properties we manage. One of the regulations states that bedrooms must be a minimum of 6.5 sq metres in size. We manage a number of 4 bedroom semi-detached properties. The smaller bedrooms are ample single rooms, with comfortable space for a single bed, wardrobe and chest etc. Rooms that measure 6.2 sq metres were not acceptable and landlords are being forced to take down whole bedroom walls and take space from the adjoining bedroom. This will mean there are only inches added to the smaller bedroom, but regardless of the cost, landlords are being forced to carry out these unnecessary works. HMO inspectors are not being afforded the ability to make common sense decisions, as their Managers enforce the regulations to the letter.

Will the new regulations ultimately lead to reduced HMO property availability?

Only time will tell, but many landlords feel this that unnecessary burdens are being placed on them.

Campbell & Co can provide specialist advice on all aspects of renting, managing and selling properties.

Belfast Office: 02890 732273

Lisburn Office: 02892 449 449