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Landlords win dispute with council over students in HMO

Posted: 12th December 2018   In: Commercial Property

Two landlords have won a long-running dispute with their local authority over renting homes in multiple occupation (HMOs) to students.

The issue arose after the authority imposed conditions on the HMO licences prohibiting the use of attic bedrooms for sleeping because the roof slope meant they were smaller than what it considered acceptable for a bedroom.

The First-tier Tribunal found that each house contained enough shared space to compensate for the size of the attic bedrooms and that students, living "cohesively", would share that communal space.

It deleted the local authority's conditions and imposed an alternative requirement that the attic bedrooms could only be used for sleeping accommodation by a full-time student living in the property for a maximum period of 10 months per year.

The Upper Tribunal upheld that decision.

The Court of Appeal added the further conditions that specified communal space be kept available only as communal living space and that bedrooms could only be let to full-time students.

The Supreme Court upheld the conditions imposed by the Court of Appeal but overturned the tribunal’s decision about how long the homes could be occupied.

It accepted that the requirement that the attic rooms only be occupied for 10 months a year was intended to reinforce the condition that they should only be occupied by students.

However, that was irrational. If a room was suitable for 10 months' occupation, it was suitable for a full year. Moreover, students often required accommodation for the entire year. The conditions would be varied to remove that requirement.

Please contact Jonathan Carr if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of commercial property law.