Is the Cardiff House Share an Endangered Species?

The Cardiff house share is in great danger due to a number to changes to taxation and legislation to the Private Rented Sector (PRS) across the UK in 2016 with Wales leading the way with the roll out of Rent Smart Wales a national landlord and letting agent register which came into force on 23rd November 2016.

As well as the introduction of Rent Smart Wales the Welsh Assembly Government have also introduced further legislation around the creation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) or more commonly known as house shares. Prior to 25th February 2016 in Wales the C3 planning use classification applied to all dwelling houses up to and including six tenants but on the 25th February 2016 Wales introduced a C4 planning use classification of HMO: “tenanted living occupation by 3 to 6 people, who are not related and who share one or more basic amenities, as their only or main residence.”

Why is C4 HMO Use Class Such a Problem?

In England, it’s not.  It has long been accepted that permitted development rights ensured a property owner would automatically have planning permission granted by the General Development Order where an existing single family dwelling (C3) is used as a small HMO (within class C4) or vice versa.  However, all properties in Wales with 3 to 6 (unrelated) tenants now require a change of use application to be made, at the recently increased planning fee of £380 and there is NO GUARANTEE OF APPROVAL for your house share in Cardiff or else where is Wales.

Cardiff Council’s Approach to House of Multiple Occupation (HMO)

From a landlord and property investor perspective it looks as if Cardiff Council is going all out to stop the creation of additional house shares within the city.  Cardiff Council is to try to control the total concentration of house shares in each area by denying landlords in those areas planning permission to move between HMO classes if the concentration for that area has already been met, and the property falls within 50m radius of the designated area.  The threshold for the ward’s of Cathays and Plasnewyedd is 20 percent and in all other wards 10 percent.

Here is a link to Cardiff Council’s HMO Supplementary Planning Guidance:

So as can been seen from housing legislation that has been introduced by the UK Government , Welsh Assembly Government and Cardiff Council there is going to be a decrease in the overall number of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) being created in Cardiff even though the number of people looking to house share in Cardiff is ever increasing as they search for high quality affordable accommodation.

House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) & Fire Safety

Data from the Department for Communities and Local Government show an increase in the number of commercial premises found to be satisfactory during audits by fire and rescue services across England with 59% of building deemed satisfactory during 2011-12 an increase of 3% for the period 2010-2011.

Fire and rescue services focused their audits on premises deemed to be high risk which included care homes, hotels, hospitals, educational establishments and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

No prizes for guessing which high risk group came bottom of the pile; you’ve guessed it Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).  Of all Houses in Multiple Occupation inspected only 42% HMO resulted in a satisfactory audit inspection.

Commenting on the report, Graham Ellicott, chief executive officer of the Fire Industry Association, said: “The FIA welcomes the reported increase in satisfactory fire safety audits but cautions against complacency. In addition, the definition of satisfactory varies markedly between different fire and rescue services.

“For example some will ‘mark’ even minor failures as unsatisfactory whereas others in the same situation will offer guidance and advice and if this rectifies problems then no further action is taken.

“Thus it can be difficult to compare the figures between the fire and rescue services and a more appropriate comparison is year on year for the same fire and rescue service.”

A ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment must be carried out on all commercial properties in England and Wales under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to two years if they fail to comply with the legislation.