Private Sector Housing
Advice for landlords, tenants and home owners
The Council has a team of Environmental Health and Technical Officers offering advice and dealing with all aspects of residential health including housing conditions in private sector homes, empty properties, houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), caravan and camping sites and residential park homes sites.
Loans and grants are available to home owners and some tenants in privately owned accommodation, and home improvements can be arranged through the Council's home improvement agency 'Caring and Repairing in Epping Forest' (C.A.R.E).
What does our private sector housing service offer?
Landlord fined £21,575 for illegal HMO
Epping Forest District Council successfully prosecuted and fined Mr Veli Bunul £21,575, when found operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) and breaching legislation designed to protect tenants. The Council was call to inspect a three storey family town house in Tillingham Court Waltham Abbey, found to be occupied by three separate families, each with young children, all sharing one kitchen and two bathrooms.
Housing 11 occupants, the property was overcrowded, had inadequate fire precautions or a safe means of escape in event of an emergency. Basildon Magistrates court was particularly concerned about these failings which could have potentially led to lives being at risk and tragic circumstances. The Court heard that Mr Bunul of Chase Side, London E14 had ignored all of Epping Forest District Council’s warnings about his responsibilities to licence the property and his obligation to make it safe. He alleged he was unaware that the property was being occupied by several families, claiming someone else collected the rent on his behalf. The court did not find this a reasonable excuse and so carried his conviction alongside a hefty fine.
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “We will not tolerate landlords who rent properties which fail to meet standards. The Council has a commitment to ensure that private landlords in the Epping Forest district do not take financial advantage of vulnerable tenants and put their lives at risk. We will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who show a disregard for the law and their responsibilities towards occupants”.
New licensing rules
The Government are bringing in an extension to the current licensing regime. From 1 April 2018, any property with five or more people from two or more households will require a licence, regardless of how many floors there are in the property. Landlords must comply with licence conditions to ensure properties are safe for the amount of people occupying them. In addition, minimum space requirements are to be imposed to prevent exploitation by overcrowding.
Advice to Landlords
Landlords that currently operate a licensable HMO in Epping Forest District (3 or more storeys, occupied by 5 or more people living as 2 or more households) but do not currently hold a licence should contact the Council’s Private Sector Housing Team immediately to avoid prosecution. Anyone operating such an HMO without the appropriate licence is committing an offence, risks a criminal record and an unlimited fine on summary conviction. Other landlords operating or thinking of operating an HMO that will fall under the new licensing regime from 1 April 2018 are encouraged to contact the Private Sector Housing Team for further information and advice.
Advice to tenants
If you think you may be living in a property that requires a licence and one is not displayed in the property, or you are concerned about the property conditions, please contact the Private Sector Housing Team on the details below:
Important changes relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation
There are some important changes, coming in April 2018, affecting housing multiple occupation. We want to inform landlords, tenants and all interested parties of the changes and also about a consultation into proposed amenity standards that is very much in their interest to respond to.
Property owners, landlords, agents and tenants, please forward your details including email address to the firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can update you about changes affecting HMOs and so we can include you in the consultation about amenity standards
Extension of licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMO).
This is an advance notice to advise landlords and tenants that it is expected from 1 April 2018 that a large number of properties that currently do not need a licence to operate, will do so.
Currently a house in multiple occupation (HMO) that is 3 or more storeys and occupied by 5 or more people living as 2 or more households and sharing at least one amenity (kitchen, bathroom, toilets) requires a licence from the Council. There is a charge to the landlord for the licence and certain conditions need to be met including fire safety and amenity provision, property standards and management. The landlord can be prosecuted for failing to obtain a licence or for not complying with the licence conditions.
The proposal is that from 1 April 2018 the 3 or more storey rule will be removed so all properties (regardless of how many floors) with five or more people from two or more households will require a licence. Assuming the April 2018 timescale is met; landlords who rent out these properties will have until October 2018 to apply for a licence.
We will keep you updated about the timescales, costs and the fire and amenity standards that will be required which are likely to differ to some extent from the standards for a 3 storey licensable property. In the meantime if you would like to discuss any points please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Private Sector Housing Team on 01992 564348
Please also note that if you own a house in multiple occupation that is 3 storeys or more and licensable but you have not applied for a licence, you must do so immediately or face the possibility of a fine (unlimited) for non-compliance. You can make an application on line https://www.gov.uk/house-in-multiple-occupation-licence or request an application form from the Private Sector Housing Team.
Minimum space requirements
Minimum room sizes are being introduced in HMOs that need a licence. Rooms used for sleeping by one adult will have to be no smaller than 6.51m2 and rooms for two adults will have to be no smaller than 10.22m2 by law. Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger will have to be no smaller than 4.64m2.
The licence will specify the maximum number of persons (if any) who may occupy any room and the total number that can live in the house as a whole.
HMO Amenity Standards – have your say
Councils are responsible for ensuring that the size of an HMO and the number of facilities are suitable for the number of people living in it. We are proposing to set standard conditions that can be consistently applied across the participating councils in Essex. This will include things such as the number of toilets, bathrooms and kitchen facilities and also room sizes for sleeping and communal living space where appropriate.
Before any implementation, we want to consult with landlords, tenants and all interested parties for their views as we want it to be fair and reasonably achievable. Following consultation and consideration of any amendments it is proposed that the Essex Amenity Standards will be applied to all HMOs and enforced where appropriate.
We are very keen to get the views of as many landlords, tenants and interested parties as possible. The consultation document when finalised will be posted on the website for a number of weeks. If you forward your contact details including email address to the email@example.com we can send the link directly to you.
Energy efficiency requirements for privately rented properties from 1st April 2018
As from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Regulations come into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020.
It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption.
A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches.
For many landlords this will mean that they will no longer be able to rent out a property with a rating of F or G after April 1st 2018. As such landlords with properties in this EPC bracket should begin preparing now for April 1st. However, there are several nuances and exceptions and landlords are advised to read the Government publication: Guidance for landlords and Local Authorities on the minimum level of energy efficiency required to let domestic property under the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.
The current regulations require that landlords will be required to make energy efficiency improvements for the purpose of the Regulations, where funding is available to cover the full cost of purchasing and installing the improvement(s) from one or more of a Green Deal Plan, Energy Company Obligation or similar government sponsored scheme. Where funding is not available to fully cover the cost of making a recommended improvement then the landlord will not be required to make that improvement to the property.
Please be aware the Government launched a consultation exercise on proposals to amend the domestic regulations. A key proposal in this consultation involves the removal of the ‘no cost to the landlord’ principle described above, and the introduction of a ‘landlord funding contribution’ component which would take effect where a landlord is unable to obtain suitable third party funding. To protect landlords from excessive costs, the consultation proposes the introduction of a cost cap: a limit on the amount any landlord would need to invest in an individual property.
Landlords, tenants and other interested parties may want to respond to the consultation document which closes on 13 March 2018.
Previously published articles (listed below) can be found on the Private Sector Housing - Archived News Updates page.
- Getting your tenants to manage their waste
- Extension to mandatory HMO licensing
- Greater protection for landlords as CMP to be made compulsory for letting agents
- Rent a Room scheme
- Lettings agents and property managers: redress schemes
- Get an Energy Performance Certificate
- Extension of licensing of houses in multiple occupation
- New powers to deal with rogue landlords
- Landlord Expo 2017
- Changes of rules regarding lawful possession of a property
- Right to rent checks
- Housing law consultation - Houses in multiple occupation and residential property licensing
- Are you putting your renters at risk from dangerous gas appliances?
For information download these useful guides for landlords:
Letting a property
Many home owners let property out to tenants. Usually, the rent received is more than the owners' monthly mortgage payments. Our Private Sector Housing Section can give advice to residents who want to let a property or a room.
The Government has an advice page on renting a property, or a room in your home.
Genesis Housing Association operates a leasing scheme for landlords which aims to help more local people to find safe and affordable housing. The scheme was enabled through our partnership with Genesis, one of the country's largest social landlords.
Inventory advice for landlords
The 'ins and outs of inventories' provides comprehensive details of what landlords and agents should take into account when compiling an inventory at the start of the tenancy. This should help avoid disputes between landlords, letting agents and tenants over the return of deposits at the end of the tenancy. There is more information on the mydeposits website.
For information on the Government's tenancy deposit protection schemes, and the Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme offered by Epping Forest Housing Aid, please use the following link:
Fire safety advice
Energy and gas safety
Our Energy and gas safety page gives information on Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), the Green Deal, gas and electrical safety.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
From 1st October 2015 private sector landlords are required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (for example, a coal fire or a wood burning stove).
A fine of up to £5,000 can be imposed where a landlord fails to comply with the requirement of the regulations.
This explanatory booklet for landlords can be downloaded for further information.
Want to know more about letting a property to tenants?
Have you got a lot of questions about Income tax, business records and expenses?
If so, the Government's HMRC e-learning course is for you. This course will build your confidence by guiding you through everything you need to know to get started. There are useful tips from others who have been where you are now and practical case studies to help you along the way.
A number of recognised Landlord Associations exist to provide information, support and advice to landlords on all aspects of renting in the private sector. This may include:
- access to legal advice
- open meetings
- access to standard forms
- networking with other landlords and associations, or
- discounts on certain landlord related services.
There is usually a small annual charge for membership. For more information click on the links below:
Information for tenants
The How to Rent Guide has been produced to help tenants understand their rights and responsibilities when renting in the private sector. It explains the questions that tenants should ask when thinking about renting a property and also the steps that they should take if things go wrong whilst living there. Your landlord must provide you with this guide at the start of the tenancy.
Advice for tenants on harassment and illegal eviction
It is an offence for a landlord to harass a tenant if the harassment causes the occupier to leave, or prevents them from exercising their rights to the property. We also advise tenants on their options if they think they are being illegally evicted.
Housing conditions and enforcement
We want privately rented homes to be safe for residents to live in. We look at disrepair, dampness, overcrowding, fire precautions and missing amenities and we use enforcement procedures to achieve statutory housing and environmental standards.
Your first action, if you are having problems, should be to contact your landlord or letting agent. Their details should be on your tenancy agreement. Contact them in writing if you have had difficulties with them before. If you have not had a reply after a reasonable time (around 14 days for non-urgent works) then contact the Private Sector Housing Team on 01992 564149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think the works are dangerous or urgent then contact us at the same time that you contact your landlord.
Private rented homes include Houses in Multiple occupation (HMOs) and housing association properties.
What can we do? If your landlord is ignoring your request for help, then we may be able to make sure that repairs or improvements are carried out - and the property is safe for you. Normally we start by approaching the landlord by phone or letter. But, if there is a previous history of problems with the landlord, then we may adopt a more formal approach straight away.
We will make an appointment to visit you at home and assess the property using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. We look at any deficiencies and hazards in the property, to help us decide what action we need to take. We may serve a statutory notice on your landlord, or letting agent managing the property, requiring them to carry out remedial works within a reasonable time (normally 28 days minimum).
If your landlord has not appealed against the notice, and does not carry out the works within the time allowed, we may carry out the works and recover the costs from the landlord. For further details regarding enforcement refer to our Private Sector Housing enforcement policy.
Is your home damp? Damp can cause mould on walls, and it can ruin your decorations and furniture. It can also increase the risk of respiratory illness. One of the most common causes of damp is condensation. This leaflet explains how condensation forms, and how you can keep it to a minimum.
The Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy sets out the enforcement procedures that will be used to achieve statutory housing and environmental standards. It explains what owners, landlords, their agents and tenants of private sector properties can expect from council officers.
Our aim is to encourage cooperation between the council and property owners to help keep homes in good repair. Anyone likely to be subject to formal enforcement action will receive a clear explanation of what they need to do to comply and will be given an opportunity to resolve issues before enforcement action is taken.
Download the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy:
Report an empty property - use the form below
Each home that stands empty is a wasted resource. Within Epping Forest we have a growing demand for homes, for rent or for purchase, and we want to see empty properties brought back into use as quickly as possible. A property left empty and neglected for a long time can bring problems associated with vandalism, squatters, rodents and nuisance - as well as being unsightly and detrimental to the local environment. Maintenance and repair costs can be reduced and there can be other financial advantages in bringing a property back into use, such as revenue from rent and reduced insurance premiums.
There are many ways we can help, by offering advice and assistance along with information on letting, selling and private leasing. There are several schemes and incentives:
The PLACE loan This is an interest free loan that is available to owners of empty properties to renovate their homes to a suitable standard for selling or letting. The maximum loan is £25,000 per unit of accommodation and the loan must be paid back within 2 years for a ‘loan to sell’ and 5 years for a ‘loan to let’. For further information contact the Empty Property Officer on 01992 564706. You can download a leaflet on the PLACE loan below.
Empty Homes Repayable Assistance Owners of qualifying properties could get a grant up to £10,000 to bring their home to the Decent Homes Standard, provided they intend to live in it themselves or rent it out for 5 years.
To decide whether you are eligible for Empty Homes Repayable Assistance you need to complete and return an Initial Assessment Form.
Report an empty home using our online form
You can now let us know of an empty property by using the online form. If you would like to discuss any property or issue relating to empty homes, please call the Empty Property Officer on 01992 564706. All calls and information received will be treated in confidence.
Home improvements for older homeowners or private tenants, and for people with disabilities
Through the Caring and Repairing in Epping Forest (C.A.R.E.) Home Improvement Agency, the Council seeks to assist older people and disabled home owners to improve, repair or adapt their houses. We may also be able to assist with home improvements to prevent hospital admission, or to support prompt discharge from hospital. Further information, including the grants available to residents and schemes available can be found here:
C.A.R.E. also provides a handyperson service to retired home-owners and private tenants who are over the age of 60. Our reputable and vetted contractors carry out small, low cost repairs and home security work. They can also provide falls prevention measures. There is a charge for the service, which is lower for people on means-tested benefits.
Our C.A.R.E. Garden Clearance Scheme is available to home owners and private tenants and is run in conjunction with Voluntary Action Epping Forest. It is open to people who are identified as being vulnerable or at risk because of age, disability or illness. The scheme does not cover routine garden maintenance, applicants must have at least one of the following:
- an overgrown garden that could result in trips or falls
- trees or bushes overshadowing the front door leading to a fear of crime
- a garden that has deteriorated giving the impression that the property is unoccupied
- an overgrown garden that impedes access by social care, health or other support workers
Contact the Private Sector Housing Assistance Team for more information on any of the above services. Phone 01992 564086 or email email@example.com
We offer financial assistance and grants to home owners, private tenants and landlords. The types of financial assistance available are :
- Disabled Facilities Grants up to £30,000
- Decent Homes Repayable Assistance up to £10,000
- Small Works Repayable Assistance up to £3,000
- Empty Homes Repayable Assistance up to £10,000
Disabled Facilities Grants for adaptations to the homes of disabled owner-occupiers and private tenants are governed by the ‘Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act 1996’. You can view the council's own leaflet below.
Decent Homes Repayable Assistance is financial assistance (a loan) to bring private sector dwellings up to the 'Decent Homes Standard', which was introduced by the Government to assess the condition of homes. Assistance may be available where there is a significant hazard within the property, or disrepair, which breaches the standard.
Small Works Repayable Assistance is financial assistance which may be available where there is a hazard as defined under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) or a defect which is likely to damage the fabric of a property unless it is repaired.
Are you eligible for Decent Homes Repayable Assistance or Small Works Repayable Assistance? Complete and return an Initial Assessment Form to find out.
Energy efficiency works
There is also limited funding available for Epping homeowners and private tenants who are disabled or over 60 and on a means tested benefit to assist with energy efficiency measures such as draught proofing or loft insulation. Contact us for more information.
Further information can also be found on the Government's website.
For more information on financial assistance in the private sector please contact the C.A.R.E. and Grants Team.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01992 564092
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
If you rent out a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in this district, you may need to apply for a licence. Generally a house in multiple occupation will be a property occupied by more than one household and more than two people, and may include bedsits, shared houses and some self contained flats. The council keeps a register of HMOs, this document is available to download below.
Landlords should contact the Private Sector Housing Team with any query about HMOs, including licence applications.
Applications must be made to the local housing authority and a fee may be charged. You must be a fit and proper person to hold the licence.
For a summary of the eligibility criteria for this licence - go to Communities and Local Government website.
Application Evaluation Process
Licences will be granted if:
- the house is or can be made suitable for multiple occupation
- the applicant is a fit and proper person and the most appropriate person to hold the licence
- the proposed manager has control of the house, and is a fit and proper person to be the manager
- the management arrangements are satisfactory
Will Tacit Consent Apply?
No. It is in the public interest that the local authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from your council within a reasonable period, please contact them. You can do this online or use the contact details below.
Failed Application Redress
Please contact your local authority in the first instance. You may appeal to a residential property tribunal. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.
Licence Holder Redress
Please contact your local authority in the first instance. You may appeal to a residential property tribunal regarding conditions attached to a licence, or any decision to vary or revoke a licence. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.
If a licence is granted, and you wish to appeal against it being granted, you may make your appeal to a residential property tribunal within 28 days of the decision being made.
What is the student accommodation accreditation scheme?
The Student Accommodation Accreditation Scheme was introduced in 2012 by Epping Forest District Council and East 15 Acting School (University of Essex) to encourage good practice among landlords and letting agents, and provide good quality private rented accommodation for East 15 Acting School students within the District.
This voluntary scheme provides landlords with a clearly defined set of standards and provides a way of giving recognition to landlords who have taken a responsible approach to renting. It also provides students (and their parents/guardians) with the confidence that the properties have complied with these accreditation standards at the time of accreditation.
The landlords have therefore agreed in principal to the following terms:
- All shared student properties will only accommodate East 15 students unless mutually agreed with the landlord or letting agent.
- All student accommodation will be fully furnished including all bedroom furniture and landlords will provide other items, such as desks, if required.
- All student accommodation must provide a either a separate living room or a large enough kitchen/dinning area to allow students to socialise together.
- All landlords have the legal right or permission to rent the accommodation.
- All landlords will comply with the University of Essex's Equality Policy, not to discriminate against any tenant or potential tenant.
- All private landlords will not charge East 15 Students any administration fees.
- All landlords will provide photographs and floor plans clearly showing room sizes and the layout of the accommodation.
- All non-resident landlords must provide the tenants with a written tenancy agreement which clearly sets out the conditions of the tenancy and the respective responsibilities of the landlord and tenants. Both parties must be given identical copies of the agreement.
- All security deposits must be protected by a Government Approved Scheme.
- Landlords who wish to include their properties in the Accreditation Scheme must conform to the standards set within and must be a fit and proper person.
As part of the three year Accreditation Scheme, all accredited properties must provide an annual Gas Safety Certificate to be held on file.
During the accreditation term of three years, properties will be re-inspected if complaints are reported by the tenants or raised by the University.
News - are you a park home resident? Find out from Energylinx if you are eligible for an energy rebate.
The Private Sector Housing Team keeps a register of Touring and Holiday Mobile Home Parks in the Epping Forest district.
Contact the team if you want to report problems on any site, or if you have a query about licences. Phone: 01992 564706
The term caravan legally includes those which can be towed behind cars, motor homes, static holiday homes - and the more modern residential park homes, which often arrive on site in two sections and are then bolted together.
Frequently asked questions
What do I need to do to get a site licence? You must gain planning permission before you can apply for a site licence, for more information on this please see our Planning (Development Control) pages. Once you have planning permission, contact the Private Sector Housing Team for a site licence application form, or use the link below to find out how to apply for a licence.
I live on a caravan site and feel that site conditions are poor, what can I do? You should check the conditions on the site licence, which are required to be available on site for inspection. If any of the conditions are not being complied with, or you can't get to see them, then contact us for advice.
Residential Park Homes
What do licence conditions control on residential park home sites? There are standard licence conditions for all sites within the Epping Forest district. Conditions will cover issues such as density, spacing, fire precautions, water supplies, electricity and drainage connections.
We keep a Register of Site Rules (Park Homes) where the site owner has set their own rules for a residential park home site.
We also keep a register of Residential Mobile Home Parks.
The Team can advise you on the relevant licence conditions, and provide information on applying for a new licence. They are also responsible for ensuring that conditions are met on existing sites. To report problems on any site in the district, phone the Private Sector Housing Team on 01992 564706
Our fees policy can be downloaded below.
Useful information can be found on the Government's website
The Leasehold Advisory Service give information for owners of park homes, and site owners.
The law covering caravans and mobile homes is contained in:
- Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 - This Act covers the licensing of caravan sites and the safety, welfare and management conditions which need to be provided.
- Caravan Sites Act 1968 - This Act deals with protection from eviction from residential sites, and the maximum dimensions for caravans.
- The Mobile Homes Act 1983 - This act covers the civil law between site owners and residents on ‘protected sites’. A protected site is one which has planning permission for permanent residential use and has been issued with a site licence.
- The Mobile Homes Act 2013 - This Act amends some parts of the above legislation and gives more rights to residents of park home sites. The most important changes make it easier for residents to sell their home on the open market without involving the site owner. Other changes have been introduced in respect of Pitch Fees, Site Rules and Local Authority Licensing.
Contact us: Private Sector Housing (Technical), Epping Forest District Council
Telephone: 01992 564348
HMO Amenity Standards