As was reported here, we were assisting one of our members with a case where he has a two storey house which also has a basement. In the basement are the electric and gas meters, a consumer unit and a gas shut off valve. Otherwise, the basement is not in any way habitable.
The local authority were saying that because of the meters and consumer unit etc. the basement “is being used in connection with, and as an integral part of, the HMO” and therefore required a licence (there were also five occupiers).
We disagreed and put our case to the local authority official over the telephone. Thank fully, no real work was necessary on this one and the local authority have now contacted us and said they are retracting their request for a licence.
Interestingly, over the telephone, I offered to remove the consumer unit and gas valve which would just leave the electric meters, however, they have confirmed that those can remain and still no licence is necessary.
Of course, because there has been no hearing, there is no decision on this point. However, when I put the landlords case to them, I particularly emphasised that one key point when considering a storey is the part that says “is being used …” (thanks to @ddortongibson for that one). We submitted that there should be a distinction between a basement “being used” and “being visited on occasion” to read the meters. This in particular seems to have done the trick but of course we will never know the true reason for the local authority changing their mind.
This does just show though, where a landlord has a reasonable case, it is always worth pursuing further and in particular take advice. Calling their bluff in this case isn’t really the correct term to use because I am certain we would have taken this to the RPT but as it is, good on Rugby local authority for genuinely listening to our case and considering the points made without the need for lengthy paperwork passing between parties, it’s good to see there are sensible officials still out there!