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Examples where the law changes Council Tax

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property rented out by at least three people who are not from one 'household' (for example, a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

The following court cases illustrate that an HMO is likely to exist where:

  • rent is paid by each tenant direct to the landlord and separately receipted
  • room rent is determined by the landlord
  • different rooms are let at different rents (depending on size, aspect, etc)
  • bedrooms have externally lockable doors
  • separate lifestyles are pursued
  • service supply bills are in the name of the owner
  • room usage may have altered from the original or normal intention
  • tenancies commence at different times.

Hayes v Humberside Valuation Tribunal & City Council 1997

This landmark Appeal Court case judged the owner liable where a dwelling is suitable for occupation by persons who do not constitute a single household.

UHU Property Trust Ltd v Lincoln City Council 2000

Landlords cannot avoid personal liability by getting tenants to sign impractical agreements. The High Court judge decided that such agreements are irrelevant if what happens in practice differs from the ‘terms’ and there is no reasonable likelihood of them being fulfilled.

Annette v Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames 1994

Notwithstanding the wording of individual agreements to the contrary, the tribunal found that the tenants each paid rent for a room only (with shared facilities) – the owner’s joint tenancy claim was not supported by Housing Benefit records which indicated that separate room rents were paid. Locks were fitted on the tenants’ bedroom doors.

Sumal v Coventry City Council 1995

The tribunal found that locks on bedroom doors and evidence from tenants regarding receipts/payments for identified rooms (plus shared facilities) were sufficient to dismiss the property owner’s appeal. The tribunal also decided that evidence of the tenants’ sharing household bills was irrelevant.

Neville v City of Bradford Metropolitan Council 1995

The owner argued that all his tenants shared all the accommodation in what the council had designated a HMO. The presence of lockable bedroom doors and the use of addresses such as ‘bedsit’ and ‘flat’ indicated separate tenancies and lifestyles consistent with a HMO type property, irrespective of some versions of some of the tenancy agreements. 

Price v Waverley Borough Council 1995

The tribunal ruled that ‘adaptation’ can mean as little as ‘modifying to suit new conditions, without making radical transformation’. Consequently, externally lockable bedroom doors were sufficient evidence to class a dwelling as an HMO.