Why You Need HMO Management and How to Do It Right

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HMOs are renowned as investments with projections of significantly higher returns than single let properties. On the other side, however, HMOs are known to increase the workload and risk for landlords significantly; they require adequate and consistent planning, organising, controlling, and dealing, in other words, management. However rewarding, the journey of managing an HMO is uniquely challenging. To make it a worthwhile and successful endeavour, let’s look at what HMO management entails.

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WHAT IS HMO MANAGEMENT?

At its core, House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) management involves overseeing a property rented out to three or more tenants who aren’t part of the same household (think students, professionals, or even friends sharing a space) yet share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. This type of property management requires a keen eye for detail, robust organisational skills, and a deep understanding of the legal requirements set by local councils.

HMO properties are subject to stringent regulations and safety standards, which are in place to protect the wellbeing of the occupants. They involve managing licenses and renewals (if applicable), regular property maintenance and inspections to remain compliant, and careful arrangements to promote a harmonious living environment—in a bid to reduce void periods and risks. For those stepping into the HMO market, approaching HMO management with a professional mindset can be the key to unlocking significant investment returns.

Take, for example, the value of good communication skills in HMO management. Effective communication between the landlord or property manager and the tenants shouldn’t be taken lightly. This aspect can significantly enhance the living experience, help resolving issues more swiftly and maintain a positive atmosphere.

 

WHAT ARE HMO MANAGEMENT REGULATIONS?

Management regulations are a focal point for anyone who lets and manages HMOs. The management regulations cover all HMOs, regardless of any other controls applicable, such as Article 4 or Fire Safety.

These regulations centre on your tenant’s health, safety, and welfare. They cover a broad spectrum —from ensuring proper fire safety measures to maintaining adequate living conditions—defining specific duties to withhold the standards in tenant safety, property maintenance, and regulatory compliance. Key points include:

Duties of HMO Managers

  • Information Provision: Managers must provide their contact details to tenants and display them within the HMO. Don’t mistake HMO management notice for regular advice; this requirement helps not only ensure that tenants have the HMO manager’s name, address, and telephone number but also protects landlords from financial —and unlimited—penalties.
  • Safety Measures: Ensuring fire escape routes are clear, fire safety equipment is maintained, and protective measures are in place for structural features.
  • Maintenance: Upkeep of water supply, drainage, gas, electricity, common areas, fixtures, and living accommodation is mandatory.
  • Waste Disposal: Adequate facilities must be provided for refuse storage and disposal.

Duties of HMO Occupants

  • Occupier Duties: Occupants are responsible for following safety instructions and not obstructing the manager’s duties.

These regulations ensure HMOs provide safe, well-maintained living conditions for tenants. They intersect with broader regulations, such as the Housing Act 2004, which introduces the need for HMO licensing and sets out the general conditions for HMO standards, including fire safety and minimum room sizes, and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, which further outlines the assessment and mitigation of fire risks within HMOs.

By complying with these standards, you provide your tenants a safe and comfortable environment and protect yourself from potential legal issues and fines. Moreover, staying up to date and aligned with HMO management regulations can significantly enhance your property’s reputation. Well-managed and compliant HMOs are more likely to attract and retain tenants, leading to lower vacancy rates and a more stable income for landlords and investors.

The legal framework governing HMOs can —and certainly does— change, with new rules and regulations introduced to address emerging issues or improve living standards. To stay compliant and set your  HMO for long-term success, keep informed about these changes and proactively adapt your management practices.

DO YOU NEED AN HMO MANAGEMENT AGENCY?

The role of management agencies is to enable a seamless and successful operation for HMO properties. A specialised HMO management agency can bring expertise, efficiency, and peace of mind to both landlords and tenants. Here’s a good portfolio of services to help you scout for the right HMO management agency:

  1. Expert Guidance on Compliance: HMO management agencies must be well-versed in the local and national regulations that govern HMO properties; and guide you through the legal requirements, from obtaining the necessary HMO licences to ensuring the property meets all safety standards. This expertise not only helps in maintaining a legal and safe living environment but also in avoiding potential fines and legal challenges.
  2. Efficient Tenant Management: From marketing the property to conducting viewings, vetting potential tenants, and managing leases, can your HMO management agency handle all aspects of tenant management? Reliable experience in finding and retaining good tenants can significantly reduce vacancy rates and ensure a stable rental income.
  3. Maintenance and Repairs Coordination: A comprehensive service can take the hassle out of property maintenance and emergency repairs by coordinating with trusted contractors to ensure that work is completed promptly and to a high standard. This level of service helps you keep the property in top condition and maintain good relationships with your tenants.
  4. Financial Management: Collecting rent, managing deposits, and keeping financial records can be time-consuming. HMO management agencies can streamline these processes, ensuring that rent is collected on time and that financial records are meticulously maintained for tax purposes and financial analysis.
  5. Conflict Resolution: The reality about sharing living spaces is that sometimes, it increases the likelihood of tenant disputes. Management agencies can mediate conflicts effectively and impartially, maintaining harmony within the property.
  6. Market Insights: HMO management agencies can provide valuable insights, from rental rates and tenant demands to broader market trends. This information can be crucial to maximise your investment returns and adapt to changing market conditions. If you aren’t monitoring the market, you’re probably missing relevant signals.

Many management agencies now utilise sophisticated property management software to improve efficiency and communication. These platforms can facilitate the entire process for landlords and tenants, enhancing transparency and trust between all parties.

 

HMO MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE TO STREAMLINE

Property management software is a game changer for landlords and management agencies to oversee their properties. By streamlining operations, this technology enhances efficiency, transparency, and communication, making the management process swifter and more effective. There is a variety of features covered by these software packages, but these are vital tasks to make your management relevant:

  1. Centralised Information Management: This software provides a single platform where all information related to the property can be stored and accessed. From tenant details, lease agreements, and financial records to maintenance schedules and compliance documents, having everything in one place simplifies management and reduces the risk of oversight.
  2. Efficient Communication: With built-in messaging systems, the software facilitates clear and instant communication between landlords, management agencies, and tenants. These features can be handy for addressing maintenance issues, sending reminders for rent payments, or updating tenants on changes in property management policies.
  3. Automated Financial Operations: Automating financial reporting, rent and expense tracking can save you time and reduce the mistakes. HMO management software often enables automatic rent reminders, online payment options, and real-time financial overviews, making managing cash flow and budgeting easier.
  4. Maintenance and Repair Management: The software can streamline the maintenance request process, allowing tenants to report issues directly through the platform. Landlords or managers can then assign tasks to contractors and track progress online, ensuring that repairs are handled promptly and efficiently.
  5. Compliance Tracking: Keeping up with the myriad of regulations that apply to HMOs can be time-consuming. Management software can help track compliance deadlines, such as safety inspections and licence renewals, ensuring that properties remain within legal requirements and avoid penalties.
  6. Enhanced Tenant Screening: Some HMO management software includes tools for tenant screening, such as credit checks and reference verification.

The ability to scale operations efficiently is crucial for landlords or agencies managing multiple properties. A software that can grow with your business can accommodate more properties and tenants without increasing the administrative workload. This scalability means you can expand your portfolio while maintaining high management standards and tenant satisfaction.

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HMO LANDLORD CHECKLIST FOR EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT

For HMO landlords and managers, compliance with legal requirements and an efficient process are essential for the success and sustainability of the investment. Here’s a comprehensive checklist to help you manage these aspects effectively:

Legal Compliance:

  • HMO Licence: Verify if your property requires an HMO licence from your local council and, if so, apply for or renew it as necessary. Ensure you understand the specific conditions of your licence, as these can vary by local authority.
  • Safety Checks:
    • Conduct annual gas safety inspections and supply a copy of the Certificate to your tenants.
    • Ensure periodical inspection and testing of electrical installations; they must be carried out by a qualified electrician every five years.
    • Comply with installation and operation requirements of carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms.
  • Minimum Room Sizes: Comply with minimum room size regulations for sleeping areas to prevent overcrowding.
  • Fire Safety: Implement appropriate fire safety measures—including fire doors, emergency lighting, and fire escape routes— carried out by a certified fire safety professional.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: Keep the property in good repair, including the structure, plumbing, heating, and electrical systems.
  • Tenant Agreements: Provide tenants with a written tenancy agreement that clearly outlines the terms of their tenancy, rent, deposit, and house rules. We have developed a template for you to use. 
  • Stay Compliant: Familiarise yourself with the whole HMO regulatory ecosystem.

Operational Efficiency:

  • Tenant Communication: Establish clear and open lines of communication with your tenants to report issues and deliver regular updates.
  • Property Inspections: Schedule routine inspections to identify maintenance needs early and ensure compliance with HMO standards.
  • Waste Management: Provide adequate waste disposal facilities and inform tenants about the collection schedule to maintain a clean and hygienic property environment.
  • Financial Management: Keep a precise account of all expenditures and income related to the property. Leverage accounting software or services to streamline financial management and budgeting.
  • Insurance: Shop around and secure the appropriate insurance coverage for your HMO, including building, contents, and liability insurance.
  • Professional Network: Build relationships with trusted contractors, legal advisors, and fellow landlords to support your property management efforts.
  • Tenant Selection: To find reliable and compatible tenants, implement a thorough tenant screening process, including reference and credit checks.
  • Energy Efficiency: Assess and improve the energy efficiency of your HMO to reduce utility costs and enhance tenant appeal.
  • Regulatory Updates: Stay informed about changes in HMO regulations, council tax updates, housing laws, and best practices to ensure ongoing compliance and improve your management approach.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Regularly seek feedback from your tenants on their living experience and be open to making improvements based on their suggestions.

It’s clear as day why savvy HMO landlords and management agencies seek to automate and streamline as many aspects of property management as possible. Leveraging technology enables operational efficiency and compliance and can enhance tenant experience, contributing to higher satisfaction and retention rates.

ARE YOU A LANDLORD LIVING IN YOUR HMO?

Yes, landlords can live in an HMO property that is their only or primary residence, but this arrangement comes with specific considerations and obligations that must be carefully managed. Living in the same property as your tenants changes the dynamics of the landlord-tenant relationship. Moreover, you’re still subject to Management Regulations to ensure the effective day-to-day running of the HMO and the living standards are met. Here’s what you need to know to manage your HMO if you’re a resident:

  1. Resident Landlord Status: When a landlord lives in the property with their tenants, they are considered resident landlords (also called live-in landlords). This status can affect the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenants. For example, specific eviction processes and notice periods might differ from traditional rental arrangements.
  2. Licensing Requirements: Even if the landlord lives in the property, the HMO may still require a licencing if the property meets the criteria. For instance, if you’re sharing the house with four or more other residents, and the property is three storeys or more, mandatory licensing applies. The specific requirements can vary by local authority, so verifying with yours for detailed information is essential.
  3. Safety and Standards: The obligation to ensure the property meets safety standards and regulations remains of utmost importance, including fire, electrical and gas safety audits. A live-in landlord doesn’t reduce the importance of adhering to these standards.
  4. Privacy and Boundaries: Living with tenants requires clear boundaries and respect for privacy. A sound strategy to prevent misunderstandings and ensure harmonious living is establishing clear house rules for tenants and communicating expectations regarding shared spaces, noise levels, and guests.
  5. Rental Agreements: While some legal protections for tenants might not apply in the same way to lodgers (tenants living in the landlord’s own home), it’s still advisable to have an effective rental agreement outlining the terms of the tenancy, including rent, utility payments, and rules regarding the use of shared areas.
  6. Impact on Tenancy Rights: The rights of tenants in a property where the landlord resides can differ from those in a standard HMO. For instance, eviction notice periods may be shorter. Landlords and tenants must know of these differences and understand how they impact their rights and obligations.

With living arrangements easily mistaken for a homelike scenario, maintaining a professional attitude towards tenancy management is crucial. Your HMO still requires a landlord to be responsive to maintenance issues, respect tenants‘ privacy, and handle disputes calmly and constructively, even through mediation services.

TAKEAWAYS FOR HMO MANAGEMENT

Being an HMO landlord comes with specific requirements designed to ensure tenant’s safety, health, and wellbeing. Meeting these requirements is a legal necessity and a cornerstone for successful property management. For this purpose, think about HMO management in terms of streamlining, making your process safer, smoother, more efficient, and future-proofed; it’s wise to leave the shortcuts for other types of navigation. Here are ten keynotes on what you need to know and do:

  1. Licensing: Determine if your HMO needs a licence; this often depends on the size and layout of the property and the number of tenants. Licensing requirements vary by local authority, so it’s crucial to verify with yours for the specific criteria. Licences typically need renewal every five years.
  2. Safety Standards: Adhere to rigorous safety standards, including fire safety (installing smoke alarms and ensuring accessible escape routes), electrical safety (conducting regular electrical inspections), and gas safety (annual gas safety audits and certifications).
  3. Minimum Room Sizes: Ensure bedrooms meet the minimum size requirements to prevent overcrowding. As of the latest guidelines, rooms for single adult use must be at least 6.51 square meters, and those sleeping two adults must be at least 10.22 square meters.
  4. Amenities and Facilities: Provide adequate cooking and bathroom facilities for the number of tenants. The standards for these can also vary by local authority, but generally, facilities must be in good repair and suitable for the number of occupants.
  5. Waste Disposal: Implement appropriate arrangements for waste disposal and provide tenants with the necessary bins. Failure to manage waste properly can lead to health hazards and fines.
  6. Maintenance and Repairs: Keep the property in good condition, including the structure and exterior, water, gas, and electricity supplies, heating and hot water systems, and appliances and fixtures. Be proactive in carrying out repairs and maintenance.
  7. Tenant Communication: Set a clear communication process with your tenants. Provide them with a written statement of the terms of their tenancy and ensure they have your contact information for reporting issues or emergencies.
  8. Record Keeping: Maintain records of all safety audits and certificates, licences, tenant communications, and repair and maintenance activities. These records are essential to manage disputes and inspections by the local authority.
  9. Tenant Screening and Management: Conduct thorough screening of potential tenants to ensure compatibility with existing tenants and adherence to house rules. Managing tenant relationships and prompt conflict solutions are essential rules for landlords.
  10. Financial Management: Keep accurate records of rental income and expenditures. Understanding the financial aspects of running an HMO is vital for sustainability and growth.

Stay informed about changes in legislation. The regulatory environment for HMOs is subject to change, and being proactive can help you anticipate and adapt to new requirements. If your disposable time is limited —but also ideally— consider approaching HMO management specialists or agencies.

Wrapping up HMO Management

This outline serves as a roadmap into the HMO Management landscape. You can find other valuable resources to explore what HMOs entail, from HMO webinars to in-depth guides. Ensure the success and longevity of your HMO investment.

The HMO market is dynamic and highlighted by the interplay of different regulations, criteria, and tenant expectations. Still, the rewards of effective HMO management are significant, ranging from boosting investment returns to enhancing living environments. Given the high stakes and the regulatory challenges, professional guidance is essential. Whether your project is already taking form, or you are staring at an HMO prospect for the first time, we’ve got your covered. Reach out for a free discovery call with our team today.

Picture of Giovanni Patania

Giovanni Patania

(Architect Director, Co-Founder)

Giovanni Patania is the Lead Architect and Co-Founder at HMO Architect and Windsor Patania Architects.

Originally from Siena, Italy, Giovanni worked as a Project Lead Architect at Foster+ Partners, designing Apple stores across the world,

An HMO Investor himself, Giovanni understands property thoroughly, both from an investor's perspective and technically, as an Architect.

With over 15 years of HMO development experience, working on over 150+ HMOs and a 95% Planning and Building Regulation success rate, Giovanni has the expertise and credentials to help you on your HMO journey."

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