It’s hard to find a guide for landlords with an Edinburgh HMO Property, so we thought we should write one! As highlighted in our recent blog; ‘The Appeal of HMO properties in Edinburgh”, there is a huge demand for HMO properties in Edinburgh (House of multiple Occupation). Edinburgh’s Universities continue to expand and rents continue to climb, which is appealing for landlords with an Edinburgh HMO property.

However HMO regulations can prove difficult to navigate and definitive ‘how to’ guides are tough to track down. This is because each property is unique (even in Edinburgh when so many properties follow similar footprints) so each one must be assessed individually. In this blog we summarise some of the keys considerations (but not all!) for landlords with an Edinburgh HMO property.

Standard HMO requirements

  • Fire detection – generally, flats will need a hard-wired, interlinked, smoke alarm in every communal space (living room/hallway), bedroom and some larger cupboards and a heat detector in the kitchen
  • Doors – doors should be self-closing, at least 30 minutes fire resistant and with intumescent smoke seals fitted (these expand to seal gap between door and frame). Bathroom doors and some small cupboard doors may not need to be fire resistant
  • Emergency lighting – to light up means of escape in case of a fire
  • Firefighting equipment – 1 or 2 extinguishers and a fire blanket
  • Locks – if doors are lockable they need ‘thumbturn locks’ to avoid people being trapped in their rooms if keys are lost
  • Carpets – it’s common for the HMO department to request carpets and underlay are fitted to minimise noise disruption when there is a downstairs neighbour (this expense can be avoided if the occupants below write a letter confirming they are not disturbed by noise levels)
  • Room sizes – minimum room sizes for ‘living areas’ and for bedrooms (including minimum room width of 2.25m for bedrooms). If bedrooms are large enough there is no need for a separate ‘living area’ (normally if bedrooms are over 10sqm then no ‘living space’ is required. If they’re smaller, at least 8sqm ‘living space’ must be provided)
  • Safety Certificates – All standard letting safety certificates are required and additional certificates are necessary including; emergency lighting testing and fire extinguisher testing. HMO properties also require a fire action plan and for regular testing of the fire detection system

Normal HMO application process

  • Application process – Landlords should expect this process to take approximately 4 months (a property cannot legally be rented out as an HMO until the license is granted, even if all HMO-installations have been fitted).  If everything goes smoothly the normal process will be;
    1. Application submitted
    2. Site notice put up for 21 days
    3. Joint inspection team visits the property (Building standards and Fire safety team)
    4. Letter of outstanding works/certs sent out
    5. Follow up inspection (to make sure works have been completed) or confirmation in writing if works are minor
    6. License granted (if no objections received)
  • Timescales – The council have prepared a flowchart to illustrate the HMO application process.
  • Costs – Council application fees are as follows;

Its normal for the council to apply a new license for a year and then at renewal it’s likely that a 3 year license will be granted (depending on how smoothly the previous license has run)

Exceptions – without bogging down this blog with too much detail there are some exceptions including;

  • Double-uppers may require a sprinkler to be fitted
  • If a landlord owns several properties in the same block with the same footprint, ‘mirroring’ may apply and HMO applicaiton fees may be reduced due to each flat being laid out in the same way
  • If there are 6 or more bedrooms a property will require planning permission.
  • If a property is purchased with an HMO license already in place, the new owner can apply for an HMO license within 28 days of purchase and the HMO is likely to approved (even if it does not meet the current standards. I.e. if that property was approved as an HMO according to previous guidelines, the council will continue to approve the HMO license on that basis)

How can Umega help? – Umega Lettings is a specialist in refurbishing, renting and managing Edinburgh HMO Properties. Our maintenance team are experienced in HMO conversion and we have been dealing with Edinburgh Council’s HMO department for many years so we know their processes and expectations well.  If you a landlord with an HMO property in Edinburgh or you are considering buying a specific property to be used as an HMO, please contact our team to discuss your property and we’d be happy to give you our thoughts.