Will your HMO require a licence?

From 1 October 2018 new licensing rules apply for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in England in relation to the number of storeys. We have also seen the introduction of minimum room sizes and the requirement for adequate domestic refuse facilities in licensed HMOs.

It is fundamental to understand that the new rules will not affect whether a property is an HMO, but whether an HMO requires a licence.

On 23 February 2018 new licensing rules were agreed by Parliament and are now in force. The new rules are covered by “The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018”.  New mandatory conditions apply to all licensable HMOs that fall under the stated criteria, further tightening up the market and minimising the number of unfit properties.

From October the new definition of which HMOs require a licence will be ‘any property occupied by five or more people, forming two or more separate households’.

The new licensing rules leave the ‘people’ and  ‘households’ unchanged (five people from two or more households), but require HMOs on any number of floors to be licensed.  There is an exclusion that if the property is in a purpose built block of three or more flats, it is not covered by the requirement to be licensed under mandatory licensing.

For example, if there are five students sharing a two storey property, this is currently an HMO. This property would not be subject to mandatory licensing as the property is not over three storeys. However, from October this property would be subject to mandatory licensing as the number of storeys no long applies and the property is occupied by five or more persons forming two or more households.

The new regulations are expected to bring an additional 177,000 HMOs under the mandatory licensing scheme in England. Where other licensing schemes are already in place for landlords, (which accounts for about 20,000 HMOs) existing licences will count as mandatory licences until they expire.

If you currently rent an HMO which did not previously require licensing but will after the new order comes into force, you will be required to apply for a licence through your local authority on 1 October 2018 in order to lawfully continue renting out the property.

In addition, ‘The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018’ came into force, introducing minimum room sizes and refuse provisions.

The regulations set minimum bedroom size standards and local authorities can apply even tougher rules in order to address specific local needs. Breach of such restrictions will attract civil penalties of up to £30,000.  The new standards will apply to all landlords seeking new licences from the date of licensing. Landlords of properties with existing licences will be given up to 18 months to make necessary changes to their property in order to comply.

Minimum space requirements

  • Rooms used for sleeping by one person over ten years old will have to be no smaller than 6.51 square metres, and those slept in by two people over ten years old will have to be no smaller than 10.22 square metres.  An important point to take note of is the minimum height requirement of 1.5M– which could greatly impact Tyneside Flats; as often beds are put under sloping ceilings and if the height is less than 1.5M, then that space will not count.
  • Rooms slept in by children of ten years and younger will have to be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.

The licence will specify the maximum  number of persons (if any) who may occupy any room and the total number across the different rooms must not exceed the number of persons for whom the property is suitable.

In a bid to stop refuse from piling up outside shared rented properties, landlords are now required to provide adequate domestic waste storage facilities in line with the local authority rules. The local authority will prescribe the number and use of receptacles for the storage and disposal of waste and recycling generated by the HMO. In the Government’s opinion this is a fair and proper responsibility of an HMO landlord.

Please note, although the new electrical testing requirements for non-HMO properties has been delayed, as an HMO Landlord, the law remains the same as 2007.  This means an electrical certificate is required for all HMO’s, not just those that are licensable.

These latest measures build on wider government action to increase standards within the private rented sector by tackling rogue landlords.  This includes the new database of rogue landlords and the introduction of banning order offences that came into force on 1 April 2018.

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