4 August 2021

How to convert your student let into a standard HMO

By Kevin Meek New Business Senior Account Handler

Letting out a student property has always been a reliable form of income for many landlords. But since Covid, with students staying at home and universities and colleges expanding their online learning options, many student houses have fallen empty – leaving landlords out of pocket. Luckily, it’s straightforward to convert your student let into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) for more permanent tenants to ensure a steady income. Here, we outline everything you need to know, from your legal obligations to finding the right HMO insurance.

Licence to rent

As many student lets are already categorised as HMOs, it’s possible you may already have a licence in place – but if you don’t, you will need to check if you need one with your local authority. This is because HMOs require a licence by law, but the rules vary by area. For example, under some councils, you only need a licence for a large HMO with five or more tenants; in others you need a licence for a house share of three or more individuals. You can find out more on the government’s website, alongside guidance on your legal responsibilities, from providing gas certificates to ensuring your rooms are big enough.

Consider conversions

With the right licence in place, next consider how you want to make your property more appealing to prospective tenants. After all, many professionals will expect a higher standard of living than perhaps your typical student does, so it’s important to refresh and improve your property where possible. For instance, do you need to convert rooms such as a reception room or loft into another bedroom so you can rent to more people? On the other hand, is it worth converting a student bedroom back into a shared space like a lounge or dining room to make your property more attractive? Is it worth adding an en-suite to a bedroom to increase overall bathroom facilities? Whatever you decide, check whether you need planning permission to make the changes, as some renovations will require a green light from your local authority.

Give it a makeover

If you want to attract and retain reliable tenants, a comfortable living space is essential. Remove student furniture and consider providing new basic essentials, such as a sofa or dining table for communal areas. Smarten up rooms with fresh paint and new fittings such as curtains or blinds, and focus on making all shared spaces nicer. This doesn’t have to be limited to indoors. If you have a garden or outside space to offer, focus on making that serviceable too. The pandemic has shown the importance of exterior spaces, so having a pleasant courtyard, garden or even balcony to offer tenants will definitely make your HMO more attractive.

Secure the right protection

While no landlord wants to be without a tenant for long periods of time, the changes you make to convert your student let into a standard HMO are unlikely to happen overnight – so it’s important you protect your property while it’s empty. These days, it’s easy to get landlord insurance for unoccupied properties – you’ll just need to phone up your insurer and change from student landlord insurance to unoccupied property. At Protect My Let, we offer unoccupancy cover for up to 90 days, plus we can cover some types of renovation work too. If your renovations are extensive, we can refer you straight to Renovation Plan, one of the companies in our group, who will be able to get you the specialist cover for your building works.

Get ready for a new type of tenant

As a student landlord, you know that finding tenants is largely dictated by the academic year, often with an annual summer change-over. But with a standard HMO, you may see a higher turnover of tenants throughout the year as people move in and out on an individual basis – so it pays to be prepared financially. We recommend keeping aside at least two months’ worth of rent per year just in case there are any gaps in your income, as well as budgeting for reasonable repair requests – as your property may come under more stress with more people living in it. That way, any unexpected costs won’t cause a strain – and you will be well-prepared for your next adventure as an HMO landlord, safe in the knowledge you’re no longer reliant on universities for your income.

Friends laughing and talking

Do you need HMO insurance for landlords?

Make sure you have the right insurance cover for houses of multiple occupation with Protect My Let. You can find out further information on our HMO page.



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