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Plan to convert Worcester B&B into 13-bed HMO looks set to be approved

A PLAN to convert a city bed and breakfast into a 13-bed house of multiple occupation (HMO) looks set to be approved.

The application would see Wyatt Guest House in Barbourne Road transformed into the apartments with a number of shared facilities.

The guest house, which sits in the Shrubbery Avenue conservation area and is designated as being within an archaeologically sensitive area, is split over four floors all of which are proposed to be converted.

Permission to demolish a conservatory at the back of the eight bedroom B&B to make way for two studio apartments, three flats and a town house was approved in March 2018.

The demolition and extension would work still go ahead if Worcester City Council’s planning committee goes along with its planning department and approves the plan at a meeting on Thursday (May 23).

The building has been up for sale since April 2015. The B&B owners wanted to sell the building to a developer to carry out the work but it gathered little interest resulting in the request to convert the building into a HMO.

The new plan shows 13 bedrooms each with an en-suite with a shared kitchen and a shared communal area.

Three bedrooms spread across the extension would share another kitchen and communal area.

According to council planners, approving the application would push the percentage of homes within a 100 metre radius up to 9.5 per cent.

The council’s planning policy on HMOs allows for no more than ten per cent of homes within a 100 metre radius to be classed as HMOs.

Council planners were also satisfied the other HMO policies – which ensures no more than two adjacent properties are HMOs and supports applications for HMOs unless it has a negative effect on parking, results in insufficient space for waste and recycling or is out-of-keeping with the character of the area – were not broken.

Neighbours were incorrectly told by the council the new HMO would be breaking the ten per cent threshold because of a miscalculation.

Neighbours were told of the mistake through a letter.

Council planners said the building being used as a more permanent residence rather than a temporary B&B would increase activity in the area.

The size of the HMO would usually require at least four parking spaces but planners have accepted the lack of parking due to its close location to the city centre.

By Christian Barnett

Source: Hereford Times

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Planning inspector overrules council on seven shared houses in Brighton

Neighbours objected and the council said no – but seven more Brighton properties can be used as shared houses after planning permission was granted on appeal.

All seven are in wards where Brighton and Hove City Council restricts the conversion of family homes into houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

And all seven are in wards where thousands of students live and where there have been tensions between existing residents and younger temporary tenants.

The properties are in Ashurst Road, Brading Road, Coldean Lane, Hartington Road, Park Road, Richmond Street and Stanmer Villas.

The owners were refused planning permission by the council or served with enforcement notices and each appealed, with government-appointed planning inspectors upholding their appeals.

Neighbours sent 28 objections to the council when Co-Living Spaces, the owner of 57 Richmond Street, Brighton, proposed converting a family home into a shared house for six people.

The plans, which included changes to the roof space, prompted concerns about increased noise, strains on parking and the loss of another family home in Queen’s Park ward.

Planning inspector Janette Davis said that objections to the roof dormer were “not relevant”.

She said: “Some local residents have raised concern regarding potential noise and disturbance from both within and outside the building.

“Although the change of use to a HMO would be likely to intensify the occupancy and use of the building, with up to six occupiers this would not be of a level which would be over and above that expected within a residential area.”

More than a dozen neighbours objected to David Symons’s plans to turn a four-bedroom end-of-terrace house at 114 Stanmer Villas into a six-bedroom property.

The council said that the property, near Fiveways, did not have enough communal space but planning inspector Tim Crouch said: “I saw on my site visit that the open plan communal kitchen and living space is light and open, with internal access from the corner.

“There is sufficient space to circulate and for occupants to find some personal space.”

He said that he appreciated the concerns but there was no “substantive evidence” to cause him to come to a different conclusion.

Two other appeals in the same ward – Hollingdean and Stanmer – related to enforcement notices. One was for a house at 27 Coldean Lane where 11 neighbours had opposed an application to change it from a five-bedroom property to one with seven bedrooms.

Changes to the roof and the addition of a rear dormer prompted officials to issue an enforcement notice but it was quashed on appeal.

And a similar notice was quashed for 31 Park Road, also in Coldean, where a roof dormer had been built and a family home was turned into a shared house.

In Hanover and Elm Grove ward an enforcement notice served on the owner of a seven-bedroom shared house at 84 Brading Road was quashed by planning inspector David Hainsworth.

The council had refused to grant planning permission for changes to the property, saying that it was cramped because of the subdivisions to existing rooms.

And, the council said, the changes “failed to support a mixed and balanced community” as there were already a significant number of HMOs in the area.

Neighbours sent 13 letters of objection to the planning application.

The owner Mark Shields appealed against the council’s decision. He said that the house had not been a family home for at least 20 years and the HMO had had a licence since April 2009 without planning permission.

The planning inspector said that the increase in activity would “not have a noticeable impact” on the community.

The council said that a single-storey rear extension and a dormer and windows in the roof of 55 Hartington Road were “facilitating” an unauthorised change of use from a three-bedroom to six-bedroom HMO to more than seven bedrooms.

The owner Andrew Marchant succeeded in his appeal against an enforcement notice.

Planning inspector Sandra Prail said: “I have considered the evidence before me as to the sequence of events.

“It shows that the use of the site as a large HMO has ceased. The works are therefore not currently facilitating (HMO use) and I am not satisfied that the works were part of parcel of the previous HMO use.”

Directors of another property owner, Rivers Birtwell, run by Oliver Dorman and George Birtwell, lodged two appeals in relation to a house at 20 Ashurst Road in Moulsecoomb.

The first appeal was against an enforcement notice which alleged that a family home had been turned into a nine-bedroom shared house without planning permission.

The council said that the unauthorised changes included building work in the roof to enable a loft conversion including a rear dormer.

The second appeal was against the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawfulness for the roof extension.

Planning permission was granted for a seven-bedroom shared house in 2013, shortly after the council tightened up the rules using a policy known as an “article four direction”.

The tougher regime restricts the number of shared houses in an area and can mean fewer rights to make small-scale changes without planning permission.

But planning inspector Victor Ammoun allowed the changes and said: “The change from seven to nine bedrooms is a significant proportionate increase but I consider that it has not altered the perceived character of the use.

“The physical changes to the roof complied with … size and form requirements and thus were within the range of changes potentially normal within the nearby similar houses.”

By: Sarah Booker-Lewis

Source: Brighton and Hove News

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Rogue landlord fined over £7k after council uncovers llegal HMO in Luton town centre

A rogue landlord has been fined over £7,000 after Luton Borough Council uncovered an illegal house of multiple occupation (HMO) in the town centre

On Wednesday, March 20, Prestige Luton Ltd, of Britannia House, Leagrave Road, pleaded guilty at Luton Magistrates Court to charges of managing an HMO at 135 Wellington Street and breaching regulations which ensure properties are safe and suitable to be used as HMOs.

As well as operating without a licence, the property lacked adequate fire precautions.

There were ill-fitting fire doors, missing smoke strips and seals around the doors and frames, no thumb-turn mechanism to the rear exit door and the landlord’s details were not displayed in the property.

The company was fined a total of £3,400 with a victim surcharge of £120, and Luton Council was awarded costs of £4,220, altogether totalling £7,740.

Nicola Monk, LBC’s corporate director for infrastructure, said: “This is a great result for the Rogue Landlord Project and an excellent example of how we are working together to ensure that private housing in Luton is of a good standard.

“If an HMO is poorly managed, the tenant’s safety could be at risk. We are committed to identifying rogue landlords and making sure they improve the properties they manage, or face prosecution. I would strongly encourage tenants or neighbours who suspect a landlord is not adhering to the rules to get in touch with us.”

The purpose of HMO regulation is to ensure that the properties meet safety standards and that there are enough toilets and washing facilities for the number of people living there. Every landlord housing different individuals or families that share the same facilities under one roof must comply with these standards.

Failure to do so can lead to a criminal conviction and/or financial penalties.

There is a full list of licensed HMOs on the council’s HMO page at www.luton.gov.uk/hmo.

By STEWART CARR

Source: Luton Today

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Small landlords will dwindle away

The private rental sector of the future will be dominated by larger institutional landlords as the number of hobbyist landlords decreases.

This prediction is from Roma Finance, the specialist bridging finance and development lender, who reports that more and more landlords are using limited companies to maximise tax efficiencies on their investments – and this is set to continue.

Those landlords with fewer than five properties will disappear as the cost of managing their properties and keeping up with ever-changing legislation will prove to be prohibitive.

However, with the number of landlords reducing this won’t affect the number of buy-to-let properties available for rent, but extra administration costs could ultimately increase the rents charged to tenants.

Roma says that landlords are evolving in many different ways, from the legal structure of their holdings, the make-up of their portfolios, the quality requirements they will have to adhere to and the way they will finance properties going forward.

New HMO rules

An area of concern is the impact of the new Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations coming into force on 1 October. The number of storeys will be removed from the definition of HMO and minimum room sizes will be set.

Those landlords with one or two storey HMOs will be subject to mandatory licencing requirements by their local council. The Residential Landlords Association estimates that in the UK this will affect an extra 177,000 properties.

EPC ratings

The new EPC ratings which came into force on 1 April mean that rental properties need to be rated as E or above, those rated F and G can’t be let to new tenants or have tenancies extended.

Roma says this provides bridging lenders with a new opportunity to back professional landlords to acquire ‘un-rentable’ properties with a view to improving their EPC rating, which in turn will make them eligible for longer term buy-to-let mortgages.

Opportunities for lenders

From a lending perspective, Roma predicts that more lenders will opt for unique or tailored rates and criteria for each transaction. There are big opportunities for innovative lenders willing to look at how they can provide funding for more complex cases and update their underwriting requirements to take the new legislation requirements into account.

Scott Marshall, managing director of Roma Finance, commented: “Clearly a barrage of regulation and legislation is moulding a new breed of landlords. The days of the hobbyist landlord are numbered as the upkeep and management of rental properties becomes more onerous.

“The private rental sector is due for another shake up in 2018, and beyond, and only the larger players will be able to cope, as they can benefit from their scale of operation.  With the HMO rules coming into force in October, maybe more affordable housing is needed more than ever as an alternative.

“However, as a lender we’re still experiencing a high level of finance demand for rental property, and in the wider market there are many product updates being introduced as lenders seek to adjust criteria to keep pace with a changing market. But it seems clear that the future will be driven by professional landlords rather than the armchair investors of the past.”

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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Harrow Council Leader Speaks Out About Landlord Rogues

The leader of Harrow Council has spoken out again against irresponsible buy to let investment landlords following another inappropriate property discovered by enforcement officers.

Enforcers came across a second poorly maintained property, noting a ‘sea of mattresses’ and makeshift bunkbeds at the two-bedroom house in Wealdstone. It was thought that the home could house as many as 18 people, including children. However, the landlord claimed that everything was as it should be with the house.

The property was an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) and had no smoke detectors, faulty electrics, and was covered in mould. This led to the leader of Harrow Council reiterating his pledge to weed out irresponsible landlords from the sector. Rogue landlords can pose a danger to tenants’ lives by letting out unsafe and worrying properties. They also pose a danger to the sector in general, with the action of a small minority of landlords bringing the buy to let market in general into disrepute.

Councillor Graham Henson, leader of Harrow Council, said: ‘What kind of monster would profit from housing children in filthy and dangerous conditions like these? What if these faulty electrics caught fire? Or the rotten ceilings collapsed? It’s a nightmare that belongs in the Victorian era, not today. It keeps me awake at night, worrying about illegal HMOs like these and the criminals that rent them out.’

He asserted: ‘We will never, ever stop uncovering properties like these and punishing those responsible.’

In a particularly worrying turn of events, enforcement officers were forced to make a swift escape as the bathroom floor began to fall from underneath them.

Councillor Henson insisted that formal action will be taken against the landlord and an emergency order has been put in place. An emergency order will prevent anyone from living in the house until it is made safe for human habitation.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Help for residential tenants is on the way

The pace of change for residential landlords and tenants shows no sign of abating. Several recent press announcements herald new changes to the law in England, which will benefit tenants.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Mandatory licensing of HMOs came into force in 2006. Licensing is mandatory for properties of three storeys or more and lived in by at least five people in two or more separate households. It was introduced with the intention of driving up standards and making larger HMOs safer places to live.

In October 2016, following expansion of the HMO market, the government published consultation paper “Houses in Multiple Occupation and residential property licensing reforms” which sought views on a number of proposed measures. The issues these sought to tackle included overcrowding, poor management of tenant behaviour, failure to meet required health and safety standards, housing of illegal migrants and intimidation of tenants.

In January 2018, the government issued its response to the replies received to its consultation. It proposes to:

  • extend the scope of mandatory HMO licensing to cover certain HMOs occupied by five persons or more in two or more households, regardless of the number of storeys. This includes any HMO which is a building or a converted flat where the householders lack or share basic amenities such as a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities. It also applies to purpose-built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as an HMO;
  • introduce mandatory conditions to regulate the size and use of rooms as sleeping accommodation in licensed HMOs. The proposal is that this will done by prescribing the minimum sizes of rooms that may be used for sleeping and by introducing a mandatory licencing condition requiring local authorities to specify which rooms in an HMO are suitable for sleeping accommodation, and by how many adults and children;
  • introduce a mandatory condition requiring the licence holder to comply with their local authority scheme (if any) for the provision of facilities for the proper disposal and storage of domestic refuse.

The government intends to bring these new measures into force later this year.

The government will not at this time:

  • introduce legislation to mandate criminal record certificates to be provided in connection with applications for licences under the Housing Act 2004. It says local authorities already have discretion to do this should they so choose and the new powers on banning orders and a rogue landlord database will help strengthen this provision (see below); or
  • require local authorities to provide discounts for licences issued to certain private providers of purpose-built student housing.

However, these matters will be kept under review.

Banning orders

The Housing and Planning Act 2016, introduced a power for the First-tier Tribunal to serve a banning order on a landlord or property agent. Where someone is convicted of a banning order offence, their details can be listed in a planned database of rogue landlords and property agents. Our previous article A ban on unfair letting fees: the draft Tenant Fees Bill 2017 explains how breaches of the draft Tenant Fees Bill 2017 can constitute offences and result in a landlord/letting agent being added to the database. This database will initially only be available to central government and local authorities to check for previous offences, but it is hoped that in due course it will be made available to the public to enable more informed decisions to be made about renting.

Following a consultation paper issued in 2016, the government has now announced that it will make regulations specifying that a range of existing criminal offences will constitute banning order as well as some other offences for the purposes of the act. The full list of offences is contained in the consultation response which can be found at:

Consultation on proposed banning order offences under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

They include:

  • Unlawful eviction and harassment of occupiers;
  • Violence for securing entry;
  • Failing to comply with an improvement notice;
  • Offences in relation to licensing HMOs;
  • Fire safety and gas safety offences;
  • Offence of harassment and stalking;
  • Theft, burglary, blackmail and handling stolen goods;
  • Production, possession of supply of illegal drugs;
  • Violent and sexual offences.

Register of landlords

A Private Member’s Bill to require all private landlords in England to be registered was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday 17 January 2018 under the Ten Minute Rule. This bill is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 27 April 2018. For further information and to access the bill documents click Parliamentary website.

The Bill was introduced as a precursor to greater regulation of private landlords, the intention being that more transparency about the identity of private landlords should help to tackle issues like long-term empty properties and absentee landlords which lead to increased crime and other social problems.

Homes fit for habitation

Another Private Member’s Bill is also making progress. Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by extending its obligations to cover almost all landlords and to modernise the fitness for habitation test.

The bill seeks to ensure that:

  • all landlords (both social and private sector) must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of and throughout the tenancy; and
  • where a landlord fails to do so, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.

The new section 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 substituted by the bill will apply in England only. Relevant documents on the Bill can be found on the Parliament website.

On 14 January 2018 housing secretary Sajid Javid confirmed government support for the bill, saying that it wiould help to ensure rented homes are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action when landlords fail in their duties.

Introduced by the Housing Act 2004, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System is already used by local authorities to assess whether a property contains potentially serious risks to its occupants’ health and safety. However the new bill will give tenants an alternative remedy through court if these powers are not effective.

The current housing shortage leaves many tenants with limited housing options. Any measures to reduce the scope for exploitation are to be welcomed and if brought into effect, these proposed changes will be a welcome means of helping tenants live in properties that can properly be described as habitable and free from fear of errant landlord behaviour.

Source: Lexology

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How buy-to-let can still yield 8.9%

New data suggests changing your buy-to-let strategy could help you bank yields of up to 8.9%.

The average yield for a home rented out as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) – where each room is let individually – is 8.9%, according to the research.

In contrast, Mortgages for Business found that the average yield for a ‘vanilla’ buy-to-let where the whole property is let on one tenancy agreement was far lower at 5.6%.

The research also found that multi-unit rentals, such as a block of flats, offer an average annual yield of 8.1%.

However, the yield for HMO has dropped from 9% the previous year, something that shows its growing popularity, according to Jeni Browns, sales director at Mortgages for Business:

“The attractiveness of HMOs as a buy-to-let investment has increased in recent years not only because of the higher yields on offer but because serious investors are keener to diversify their portfolios.

“With more landlords vying for these properties, prices have been pushed up more quickly than the rents which, I would suggest, is one of the main reasons we are seeing their yields drop, although, I suspect that the granting of fewer new HMO licences is also having an impact.”

Landlords buying cheaper properties

The average value of a standard buy-to-let property – one where all the rooms are let under one tenancy agreement – has fallen almost 20% over the past 12 months from £375,409 to £305,283.

One reason for this could be that the additional stamp duty rules mean landlords are looking for cheaper properties to invest in so that they pay less initial tax and potentially higher yields.

Surging popularity of tax-efficient companies

The research also found that more and more landlords are buying properties through a limited company.

Investing via a company lets you benefit from significant tax breaks, including paying corporation tax rather than income tax, and still being able to deduct mortgage interest as an expense.

In the final quarter of 2016, only 31% of buy-to-let properties were bought through a company, but that had risen to 49% by the end of last year.

Source: BT.com

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High yields still await savvy landlords

Landlords who let out property on a room-by-room basis last year enjoyed yields of 8.9 per cent on average, research from specialist buy-to-let mortgage broker Mortgages for Business shows .

This compares to a much lower, though still healthy, 5.6 per cent yield on ‘vanilla’ buy-to-lets where the whole property is let on one tenancy agreement.

Profit margins in the buy-to-let sector remain significant, and the firm attributes this  to landlords buying lower cost properties and renting them out for more.

The research found that the average value of a buy-to-let property in 2017 was £305,283 – a 19 per cent decrease on the average in 2016 when it was £375,409.

Jeni Browne, of Mortgages for Business, said: “These results suggest that landlords are seeking lower value properties and, anecdotally, we hear that they have been looking further north for their acquisitions where prices are cheaper.

“The benefits of this strategy include less stamp duty, future capital growth, and scope for rental increases which thus allow for slightly higher yields.”

The findings tally with separate research out last week revealing Nottingham and Liverpool as the best cities in the UK in which to be a landlord.

The Mortgages for Business research also showed the rising popularity of purchasing buy-to-lets through a limited company.

According to the firm, limited companies accounted for 49 per cent of all buy-to-let mortgage completions in the final three months of last year, compared to 31 per cent in Q4 2016.

Houses in multiple occupation – or HMOs – have become an increasingly popular option for landlords on the hunt for better returns after tax changes began to push up their costs.

Ms Browne said: “The attractiveness of HMOs as a buy-to-let investment has increased in recent years not only because of the higher yields on offer but because serious investors are keener to diversify their portfolios.

“With more landlords vying for these properties, prices have been pushed up more quickly than the rents which, I would suggest, is one of the main reasons we are seeing their yields drop.

“Although, I suspect that the granting of fewer new HMO licences is also having an impact.

“Savvy landlords like to have a good mix of properties. They like the consistency of vanilla buy-to-lets and the higher returns of more complex property types.

“Although lower than previously, 8.9 per cent is still an excellent return for HMOs, not only when compared to vanilla buy-to-lets but also other, non-property assets.”

Source: Simple Landlords Insurance

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Complaints drop ‘significantly’ following ban on ‘To Let’ signs in the Dales

Complaints from residents living the Dales area of Liverpool have “reduced significantly” following the introduction of a ban on ‘To Let’ signs according to a new report.

Liverpool City Council first introduced a ban on visible advertising for rental properties in 2015 amid worries the boards were having a negative impact on the sustainability of the area’s housing market.

A report to be presented to the council’s Regeneration, Housing & Sustainability Select Committee tonight (1 February), says neighbourhood walkabouts have demonstrated a significant drop in the number and frequency of boards – despite the voluntary nature of the scheme.

In 2015, the council estimated there were around 500 boards in the area bounded by Wellington Road/Gainsborough Road, Smithdown Road, and the West Coast Main Line railway.

According to the new report, a small number of landlords were initially resistant to the ban and chose not to cooperate, but the majority of landlords in the area have since complied with, and in some cases, supported the initiative.

The report also notes that any further rollout of the programme to other areas of the city would be reliant on additional resources.

Last December, Your Move reported on council plans to crack down on the number of HMOs (House in Multiple Occupation) in the Dales neighbourhood.

No planning application for a change of use from a house to HMO for up to six people is currently required as planning permission for such a change is automatically granted.

Council evidence shows that the Dales has a higher than average concentration of HMOs (39%) and that has been adversely impacting on local residents’ quality of life.

Source: Your Move

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High yields still await savvy landlords

Landlords who let out property on a room-by-room basis last year enjoyed yields of 8.9 per cent on average, research from specialist buy-to-let mortgage broker Mortgages for Business shows .

This compares to a much lower, though still healthy, 5.6 per cent yield on ‘vanilla’ buy-to-lets where the whole property is let on one tenancy agreement.

Profit margins in the buy-to-let sector remain significant, and the firm attributes this  to landlords buying lower cost properties and renting them out for more.

The research found that the average value of a buy-to-let property in 2017 was £305,283 – a 19 per cent decrease on the average in 2016 when it was £375,409.

Jeni Browne, of Mortgages for Business, said: “These results suggest that landlords are seeking lower value properties and, anecdotally, we hear that they have been looking further north for their acquisitions where prices are cheaper.

“The benefits of this strategy include less stamp duty, future capital growth, and scope for rental increases which thus allow for slightly higher yields.”

The findings tally with separate research out last week revealing Nottingham and Liverpool as the best cities in the UK in which to be a landlord.

The Mortgages for Business research also showed the rising popularity of purchasing buy-to-lets through a limited company.

According to the firm, limited companies accounted for 49 per cent of all buy-to-let mortgage completions in the final three months of last year, compared to 31 per cent in Q4 2016.

Houses in multiple occupation – or HMOs – have become an increasingly popular option for landlords on the hunt for better returns after tax changes began to push up their costs.

Ms Browne said: “The attractiveness of HMOs as a buy-to-let investment has increased in recent years not only because of the higher yields on offer but because serious investors are keener to diversify their portfolios.

“With more landlords vying for these properties, prices have been pushed up more quickly than the rents which, I would suggest, is one of the main reasons we are seeing their yields drop.

“Although, I suspect that the granting of fewer new HMO licences is also having an impact.

“Savvy landlords like to have a good mix of properties. They like the consistency of vanilla buy-to-lets and the higher returns of more complex property types.

“Although lower than previously, 8.9 per cent is still an excellent return for HMOs, not only when compared to vanilla buy-to-lets but also other, non-property assets.”

Source: Simple Landlords Insurance