Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crowded House; A Homes & Property Lawyer, Karen Whitburn, Answers Your Questions

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crowded House; A Homes & Property Lawyer, Karen Whitburn, Answers Your Questions

Article excerpt

Byline: KAREN WHITBURN

Q I am studying at university and share a large house with friends. We each have lockable bedrooms, but share kitchen and bathroom facilities and a lounge. We pay rent directly to the landlord, per room.

We think the house is unsafe as there are no fire doors or adequate fire extinguishers, but our landlord seems unwilling to take action.

Can we withhold our rent in protest?

If a house is converted to bedsits, is a student let, or comprises an entire house with shared facilities, then the building may well be an "HMO", a house in multiple occupation.

Research shows that the annual risk of death in houses converted into bedsits is six times higher than in single-occupancy households. As a result, the Government has introduced a mandatory scheme of licensing of HMOs to improve and regulate fire safety, and other issues.

If an HMO is three or more storeys high ( counting any attic or basement which is lived in), and the property has five or more tenants forming two or more households, a licence will be required. The local authority is only likely to issue a licence if the building complies with fire-safety regulations.

Before withholding rent, contact your local authority to find out if your building should be licensed. If it should be, ask your landlord to produce a copy of the licence. Where a licence is required, failure to apply for one can result in a fine of up to [pounds sterling]20,000, and you may be able to reclaim any rent paid during the period that the property is not licensed.

For more details, visit the website of the Department of Communities and Local Government at www.propertylicence.gov.uk.

I live in a ground-floor flat. The person on the first floor has recently removed her carpets and installed some kind of laminate or wood flooring, making life increasingly unbearable for me. …

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