Buying student accommodation in Bath
Bath is consistently included in various Top 10 lists of places to invest in student property and, with over 20,000 students (or approaching 20% of the total city population) at two universities, the Norland college or various language schools, demand for quality accommodation is unlikely to be an issue for investors. Even though over 2500 new student units have been built in the city or are planned & projected for the near future, the 2015/16 intake exceeded available accommodation yet again by a significant margin. Rents and thus yields have been on an upward curve for several years and this shows no sign of abating.
With one of our offices right in the heart of Oldfield Park on Moorland Road, Madison Oakley partners have plenty of experience with property transactions in this sector, as well as a large portfolio of landlords for whom our lettings team source tenant groups each year. We retain a long list of clients wishing to purchase investment property in the city and this number continues to grow as both professional investors and student parents consider local properties.
However, changes to legislation over the last few years and shifts in student requirements have caused further adjustments to the market and we have encountered a number of potential investors requesting some guidance to interpret these changes. On this basis, we’ve put together some information and links to further documents;
What is a HMO?
The brief answer in Bath is – “A property which is occupied by three or more persons from two or more households”
Can I buy an existing HMO?
Yes, this is the simplest way to enter the market in Bath – if you are looking at a currently trading HMO and it appears on the BANES Public Register;
then the property should have all necessary paperwork. However, please note HMO licenses are not transferable and a new owner will need to re-apply for a license upon completion.
Can I buy a residential property and convert it to a HMO?
The answer to this depends on where the property is. There is an Article 4 planning direction currently in force across the city and this restricts further conversion of properties into HMOs in certain areas. There are links below to the BANES Supplementary Planning Document which gives full details of the appropriate regulations and processes. However, in brief, the following should be borne in mind;
The map below shows the current Red Zone – an area where there are already 25%+ HMOs in place. Within this area, you are very unlikely to be granted planning permission for change of use (C3 residential to C4 HMO). Outside this area, you will still have to apply for planning permission for any conversion (and may also have to apply for a HMO license – see further info sections below). Please also bear in mind this map will be redrawn twice yearly to account for changes in HMO numbers so ALWAYS check the latest map via the BANES website
If I do convert a property to a HMO, what paperwork will I need?
As mentioned above, due to the Article 4 planning direction, you will need to apply for planning permission for change of use. If the property is within the area shown on the map below (which is larger than the Red Zone shown above), you will also need to apply for a HMO license.
For information on expected standards of accommodation and licensing requirements, see http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/housing/landlords-and-tenants/additional-licensing-houses-multiple-occupation-hmos-0
Where should I buy a property?
Whether you’re buying an existing HMO or looking to convert a property into one, you need to consider your target market for tenants and their expectations in order to maximise occupation and the appeal of the property to prospective occupiers. In location terms, there are several main factors to bear in mind;
Distance from city centre
Distance from bus routes
Proximity to other students
What type of property should I buy?
Although income is of course paramount, it may well be worth considering other aspects of the property in order to ensure future popularity for tenants. Firstly, examine the numbers in a competition sense – there are more 5 bedroom HMOs than any other size whilst this year we have noted an increased demand for 6beds and bigger, as well as small units (2 & 3 beds particularly). Secondly, the most popular request from students (barring location) is for all bedrooms to be doubles (and the next most popular request is for 2 bathrooms or more). Thirdly, there is an important difference between a finish that complies with licensing regulations and one that is of a high standard – take a look at the level of presentation students become accustomed to in the newly built accommodation (Twerton Mill is a good example).
Further notes & links
Article 4 – On the 12th June 2013 the Cabinet of Bath and North East Somerset Council made the decision to confirm the Article 4 Direction on HMOs from 1st July 2013 and adopt the Supplementary Planning Document. Following concerns about the high impacts of HMOs on the social balance and mix of parts of the city the Council decided to use its rights to exert greater planning controls in relation to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Bath. Anyone looking to purchase a family house in Bath that they might want to “buy to let” as an HMO is likely to require planning permission. Where there is already a high concentration of HMOs on the street they may be unlikely to obtain planning permission to change use to an HMO. The details of the policy that planning applications will be decided on is defined in the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on HMOs in Bath, available along with further information from www.bathnes.gov.uk/hmo .
National Landlords Association – http://www.landlords.org.uk/
Student Community Partnership – advice notes for students http://www.townandgown.org.uk/living-bath
Please note as of 25/11/2015 and after the Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review, the Chancellor has announced an extra 3% stamp duty surcharge on buy to let purchases from April 2016 onwards.
Prospective landlords may also wish to research the following;
Legionella Risk Assessment – http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/what-you-must-do.htm
Changes to Mortgage Interest Tax Relief – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/restricting-finance-cost-relief-for-individual-landlords/restricting-finance-cost-relief-for-individual-landlords