Addressing Internet Issues in HMOs

Staying Connected

In the world of modern housing, Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) present a unique set of challenges and opportunities for landlords and tenants alike. Among these, providing reliable and efficient internet access stands out as a critical aspect of tenant satisfaction and property management. In today’s digital age, where seamless connectivity is not just a luxury but a necessity, the role of the HMO landlord or manager extends beyond mere accommodation provision to ensuring consistent and high-quality internet access.

For tenants, the internet is a vital resource for work, education, entertainment, and communication. In HMO settings, where multiple individuals share a single internet connection, issues such as slow speeds, intermittent connectivity, and bandwidth limitations are common complaints. These problems can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction among tenants, impacting their overall living experience and potentially leading to higher tenant turnover.

As a landlord or manager of an HMO, responding effectively to these complaints is not just about technical fixes; it’s about understanding the needs and expectations of modern tenants and ensuring that the provided amenities align with these requirements. This not only enhances the quality of life for tenants but also positions the property as a desirable and competitive option in the rental market.

In this article, we delve into the complexities of managing internet services in HMOs. We will explore the common internet-related issues faced by tenants, the responsibilities and legal obligations of landlords, and practical steps that can be taken to address these challenges. Through effective communication, collaboration with IT professionals, and implementation of robust solutions, landlords and managers can transform these challenges into opportunities for improving tenant satisfaction and property value. The goal is clear: to navigate the internet challenges in HMOs successfully and create a connected, harmonious living environment for all tenants.

Common Internet Issues in HMOs

When it comes to internet services in HMOs, tenant complaints often revolve around a few common themes. Understanding these issues is the first step for any HMO landlord or manager in addressing them effectively. Here, we explore the typical internet problems encountered in HMOs and their impact on tenants.

1. Slow Internet Speeds
One of the most frequent complaints from tenants is slow internet speeds. In an HMO, where multiple users are often sharing the same connection, the demand on bandwidth can be high. This is particularly problematic during peak hours when everyone is home and online. Slow speeds can hinder essential activities like working from home, attending online classes, streaming videos, or even just browsing the web.

2. Poor Connectivity and Signal Strength
Another common issue is poor connectivity or weak signal strength in certain areas of the property. This is often due to the layout of the HMO, with rooms located far from the router suffering the most. Poor signal strength leads to dropped connections and frustrating experiences for tenants trying to access the internet from these locations.

3. Bandwidth Limitations and Network Congestion
Bandwidth limitations are particularly evident in HMOs. When several tenants are streaming, gaming, or engaging in other high-bandwidth activities simultaneously, it can quickly lead to network congestion. This not only slows down the internet for everyone but can also lead to disputes among tenants over internet use.

Solutions for Internet Issues in HMOs


Internet speed

Recommended Internet Speeds for Various HMO Sizes:

For a 4-bedroom HMO, a speed of around 50-70 Mbps could be sufficient. This should support everyday online activities like streaming, browsing, and video calls without significant issues.

A 5-bedroom HMO may require slightly higher speeds, around 70-100 Mbps. This increment accounts for the additional users and their potential simultaneous internet usage.

For a 6-bedroom HMO, consider a speed in the range of 100-150 Mbps. This bandwidth aims to maintain a stable internet connection even during peak usage times.

In an 8-bedroom or larger HMO, speeds of 150-200 Mbps are advisable. With more tenants, the likelihood of concurrent high-demand internet use increases, necessitating higher speeds for optimal functionality.

If you are planning to refurbish a property and convert it into a HMO, one excellent idea is to include Ethernet connections in each room. This addition provides a reliable, high-speed internet alternative to Wi-Fi, which can be particularly valuable for tenants who need consistent and fast internet access for work, online classes, or streaming. Ethernet connections offer a more stable and secure network, less prone to the typical fluctuations and interferences of wireless connections. While this may involve an initial investment during the refurbishment process, the long-term benefits can be substantial. Not only does it potentially increase the property’s appeal and rental value, but it also significantly improves the overall tenant experience by catering to diverse internet needs.

Signal Strength
Addressing poor connectivity and signal strength in HMOs involves a combination of planning and the use of appropriate technology. A key aspect is the placement and setup of Wi-Fi routers. Ensuring that routers are centrally located and not obstructed by thick walls or large metal objects can significantly improve signal distribution. In larger properties or those with complex layouts, the use of Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters is beneficial. These devices help extend the reach of the Wi-Fi signal to areas that are far from the router, eliminating dead zones and enhancing overall coverage.

For properties with more demanding connectivity needs, especially larger HMOs, implementing a mesh Wi-Fi system can be a game-changer. Mesh systems consist of multiple router-like devices that work together to blanket the entire property with a strong and consistent Wi-Fi signal. This setup is particularly effective in ensuring that all areas of the HMO have reliable internet access, regardless of their distance from the main router. Regular maintenance and updates of the network equipment also play a vital role. Keeping the router’s firmware up-to-date and adjusting settings to optimize performance can help maintain strong connectivity throughout the property.

Bandwidth
Investing in a high-quality router is essential for efficiently managing bandwidth in an HMO. Modern routers equipped with advanced features are well-suited for environments where multiple devices are used simultaneously. Features like Quality of Service (QoS) settings are particularly useful, as they allow prioritization of certain types of internet traffic. For example, you can set the router to give preference to work-related activities or video conferencing over leisure activities like streaming or gaming, ensuring that essential tasks maintain stable internet connectivity even during periods of high usage.

Another consideration is the type of router. Dual-band or tri-band routers are advantageous as they broadcast on multiple frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and sometimes an additional 5 GHz band), which effectively creates separate networks. The higher frequency bands are faster and less congested, making them ideal for high-demand activities, while the lower band can handle everyday internet usage. For larger HMOs, a mesh network system can provide an even more seamless experience. These systems use multiple devices to create an extensive network coverage, ensuring strong and consistent internet across the entire property.

Alongside technical upgrades, encouraging responsible internet usage among tenants plays a crucial role in managing bandwidth. Providing guidelines on how high-bandwidth activities like downloading large files or streaming in high resolution can impact overall internet speed helps create awareness. Encouraging tenants to schedule heavy downloads during off-peak hours can also alleviate network strain. Implementing a fair usage policy as part of the tenancy agreement can formalize these guidelines, ensuring all tenants are aware of their internet usage responsibilities. Regular communication about internet usage and best practices can help maintain a cooperative living environment and ensure a smoother internet experience for everyone.

Landlord Responsibilities in Providing Internet

In HMO settings where the landlord is responsible for paying the internet bill according to the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), the implication is that the landlord agrees to cover the cost of the internet service as part of the rental agreement. This responsibility primarily involves the financial aspect of ensuring that the bill is paid and the service is in place. However, it does not extend to guaranteeing the continuous functionality, speed, or quality of the internet service.

The landlord’s commitment to pay for the internet does not equate to an obligation to manage day-to-day internet performance or address minor connectivity issues. In situations where significant service disruptions occur, the landlord’s role would typically involve liaising with the internet service provider to seek resolution, especially if the issue affects the overall availability of the service for the tenants.

Landlords in this scenario are not expected to offer detailed technical support or provide specific internet speeds. The arrangement in the AST is about the financial responsibility for the internet service, leaving the management of service quality and speed largely to the discretion of the internet service provider.

Addressing Tenant Complaints

When managing tenant complaints about the internet in HMOs, it’s important to address concerns directly and transparently while setting clear expectations. Here’s how landlords or managers can handle typical complaints:

Slow Internet Speeds
If tenants complain about slow internet, inform them of the minimum speed that is part of the service agreement. Advise them to conduct speed tests to check if the speed falls below this threshold. If it does, assure them that you will contact the service provider to address the issue.

Intermittent Wi-Fi Connection
For complaints about Wi-Fi connectivity, suggest tenants check their devices in different areas of the property to identify if it’s a widespread issue or localized to certain spots. If it’s a broader problem, agree to review the Wi-Fi setup or buy some internet boosters.

Bandwidth Limitations
When tenants report issues that suggest bandwidth limitations, like slow speeds during peak hours, explain the shared nature of the internet service in the HMO. Encourage responsible usage and suggest off-peak times for bandwidth-intensive activities.

Service Outages
In the event of service outages, communicate proactively with tenants about the issue. Inform them that you will contact the service provider for information and expected resolution times, and keep them updated on progress.

Demanding Better Internet
Acknowledging tenant complaints about the need for better internet, especially from those who work from home, requires a balanced response that respects their needs while outlining the limitations of a shared residential environment.

It’s important to point out that the property is a residential space designed for living purposes, and while providing reliable internet is a priority, the infrastructure and service are intended for general use, not specialised for commercial or high-demand activities like a professional office environment.

As HMO landlords or managers, the commitment is to ensure habitable living conditions with utilities, which encompasses maintaining a safe and secure environment for all tenants. This includes adhering to health and safety regulations, ensuring regular maintenance and repairs, providing adequate fire safety measures, and ensuring proper waste disposal, heating, and water systems.

While internet access is a valued amenity, it does not hold the same level of necessity as other essential services like water, heating, or safety measures. Providing internet is an added service, and while efforts are made to ensure its reliability, it doesn’t carry the same critical importance as those fundamental utilities and safety provisions that are essential for habitable living conditions. Therefore, requests for upgrades to office-level internet services fall outside the usual scope of residential amenities in an HMO, as the primary focus remains on maintaining the property’s safety, functionality, and compliance with health and safety regulations.

Tenants requiring more robust internet for work purposes might consider alternative solutions, such as personal mobile data plans or utilising local coworking spaces equipped for professional needs. This approach can provide the necessary internet capabilities without impacting the shared residential network.

Conclusion

Managing internet issues in HMOs requires landlords and managers to balance technical solutions with clear communication and realistic expectations. While providing internet is important for tenant satisfaction, it’s part of a broader responsibility that prioritizes the overall safety and habitability of the property.

Addressing internet service complaints effectively and considering potential upgrades within residential limits are key to maintaining a positive living environment. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a necessary service while keeping the focus on the essential aspects of HMO management, ensuring both tenant satisfaction and property value.

If you require expert assistance in HMO management or have any queries regarding your property, please feel free to contact us.

Carl Evans, CEO

Written By Carl Evans, CEO

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