HMO living can give rise to a number of issues and it’s important to know where you can turn when something happens. Properties with HMO status, especially those that require a licence, have their own additional requirements and if these aren’t being fulfilled then tenants can take action.
If you’re having issues with the landlord as a group then have a whole-property meeting to try and get to the bottom of it. Speaking to the other people in your building is really important when you’re in an HMO because some landlords will say different things to different tenants to avoid responsibilities or shirk issues. After that, give your landlord the chance to understand what’s going on by putting it in writing and setting out what you want to happen in response. Keep a copy in case you need to prove that you’ve made contact. If the problem doesn’t stop then there are other steps you can take.
- If your landlord is constantly showing up unannounced then this could count as harassment and you should call the police.
- If your building is overcrowded or there’s a lack of facilities contact the local environmental health department.
- If you haven’t had confirmation of gas and/or electrical safety then you can make a complaint about the landlord to the Health and Safety Executive.
- If your HMO should have a licence and doesn’t then contact the local authority.
- If there are hazards such as structural problems, rubbish or damp – contact the local Environmental Health Department.
- If you are facing an illegal eviction (i.e. an eviction without proper notice) – call the police or, if it is not an emergency, an organisation like Shelter.
- Poor HMO management – speak to someone at the local authority and they can compel the landlord to take action, or even take over the management themselves. The local authority can also prosecute bad HMO landlords.
Letting agent issues
You may not have to deal with a letting agent on an ongoing basis when you choose to live in an HMO but some landlords do use agents to manage HMO properties. The first step is always to put something in writing to the agent so that you have a record of what has occurred and what you want done about it. If they don’t respond then you have other options.
- Bad property management – contact the landlord directly. You should have the landlord’s address on your tenancy agreement and contacting them directly will mean you can be sure that the agent isn’t being obstructive.
- Poor behaviour – there are some great agents out there and there are some really unprofessional people and it can be pot luck in terms of who you get. If you make sure that any property you move into is managed by an agent who is a member of a professional body then you’ll be able to make a complaint to that body about them if necessary – they can order compensation and take action against an agent, such as expelling them from the membership.
- Illegal activity – agents occasionally behave as if untouchable, such as arriving unannounced and letting themselves in or stealing from tenants. If the agent you’re dealing with is crossing the line then report them to the police.
Whether you’re living in a property together as a ‘house’ or you’re sole tenants like ships in the night, it can be problematic when personalities conflict in close quarters.
- Antisocial habits – often other people have no idea how far their noise travels or that they’re leaving the taps dripping, for example. Before you start complaining to the landlord, mention it to the other person first and ask them to stop. Avoid notes as this can make situations worse and have a calm conversation instead.
- Breaking the law – if you’re living with someone who is stealing, being violent, dealing drugs or doing anything else that crosses the line between being annoying and breaking the law then speak to the police. It’s important that you don’t make these kinds of accusations without some degree of certainty.
- Irreconcilable differences – sometimes you end up living with someone who is just going through a really bad time and out of control or who makes everyone else in the building feel unhappy and threatened. If you find yourself in a situation like this then speak to the landlord if all your housemates (or most) agree. If you all have separate tenancies then the landlord may be able to simply serve notice to the one problematic tenant. If not, then it may be a case of serving notice on the property as a whole and then re-signing a new agreement without the other tenant. Remember that you may be liable for the effects of the actions of another tenant if you have a joint tenancy, so is it’s just not worth shutting up if they’re damaging property or causing a nuisance.