Your tenants can ask the council to inspect the HMO if they are concerned about conditions. If the council finds a hazard, you may be served with a hazard notice. You can be issued with a fixed penalty notice for £5,000 if you let the HMO be used when it is subject to a hazard notice.
What is a hazard?
A hazard exists where there is a risk of harm because of a list of specific issues set out in The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Hazards) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019.
What happens if the council finds a hazard?
The council can serve you with a hazard notice if officers find a hazard or multiple hazards in the property. This “hazard notice”:
- Explains what each hazard is and what is causing it (e.g. the hazard is that someone could fall and injure themselves, and this is caused by an uneven floor in the kitchen);
- Restricts usage of the entirety or of certain areas of the property while the hazard exists;
- May include details of the work that the landlord must carry out in order to remove the hazard.
If you allow the HMO to be used in a way that is forbidden by the hazard notice, the council can issue you with a fixed penalty notice for £5,000.
The notice takes effect 28 days after it is served unless it is an emergency hazard notice.
Emergency hazard notice
An emergency hazard notice takes effect immediately. It must be served on the occupants of the HMO on the day it is issued.
What happens if work has to be carried out to the property?
If the hazard notice includes a work requirement, it will explain what work must be carried out to remove the hazard and will include a deadline for completing this work.
The hazard notice will be cancelled if you arrange for the work to be completed satisfactorily by this deadline.
Asking tenants to leave while work is carried out
Depending on the nature of the hazard and on the extent of work required, you may need to ask your tenants to leave the property until the work has been completed.
If a tenant has been asked to leave, they can view this as a termination of the contract. But, if the tenant wants to return to the property, you must allow them to resume their tenancy under the same terms once the work has been completed.
If you have other properties, you could offer these as temporary accommodation to any displaced tenants, but you are not under a legal requirement to provide alternative accommodation. You cannot, however, continue to charge the tenants rent for the property they have been asked to leave.
Tenants refuse to leave
Tell the council if you can’t carry out the work because the tenants won’t leave. You may need to get an injunction ordering your tenant to leave the property.
In extreme cases, the council can opt to carry out the work required and they can order the tenant to leave the property. The council can issue the tenant with a fixed penalty notice for £500 if they refuse to vacate.
Revoking the notice
A hazard notice can be revoked once the council is satisfied that the hazard is no longer present.
Appealing a hazard notice
Types of hazards
The following could be classed as a hazard if they pose a risk of harm:
- Damp and mould growth
- Excess cold or excess heat
- Exposure to asbestos fibres or manufactured mineral fibres
- Exposures to chemicals used to treat timber and mould growth
- Exposure to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, smoke
- Ingestion of lead
- Exposure to radiation
- Exposure to uncombusted fuel gas
- Exposure to volatile organic compounds
- A lack of adequate space for living and sleeping
- A lack of adequate security against unauthorised entry
- A lack of adequate lighting
- Exposure to noise
- Poor layout or construction which means the residents can’t keep the HMO clean
- Exposure to pests
- Inadequate provision for hygienic storage and disposal of household waste
- Inadequate provision for storage, preparation and cooking of food
- Inadequate provision of facilities for maintaining personal hygiene, sanitation or drainage
- Inadequate supply of water
- Falls associated with toilets, bathing facilities, level surfaces, stairs, steps, ramps or moving between levels
- Exposure to electricity
- Exposure to uncontrolled fire and associated smoke
- Contact with controlled fire or flames, or contact with hot objects, liquids or vapours
- Colliding or getting stuck in doors, windows or other features
- The position and mode of operating any amenities, fittings, equipment
- The collapse of part or all of the property.