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Government extends licencing scheme for HMOs

Government extends licencing scheme for HMOs

The Government is expanding the mandatory licencing of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation), bringing more properties into the licencing regime from 1 October 2018.

The new rules which were laid before Parliament on 23 February 2018 follow a wide-ranging consultation initiated in 2015 and are designed to ensure more homes meet acceptable standards. Some 60,000 HMOs currently require a licence and it’s estimated that a further 177,000 properties could need one under the new rules.

Landlords who fail to comply with licensing reforms by 1 October 2018 will be committing a criminal offence from that date.

Wider scope

An HMO is a property rented to at least three people comprising two or more households who share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

Previously, landlords needed a mandatory licence for HMOs let to five or more people only if the property was at least three storeys high.

Going forward, mandatory licencing will apply to all HMOs with five or more tenants regardless of the number of storeys.

Licencing explained

Landlords need to apply to their local authority for an HMO licence.

Licences are valid for a maximum of five years and landlords need a separate licence for each HMO that they run.

Landlords of HMOs need to make sure the house is suitable for the number of occupants and the licence holder is ‘fit and proper’. In addition, landlords need to obtain annual gas safety certificates, install and maintain smoke alarms, provide safety certificates for all electrical appliances when requested and meet any other conditions set by the council. In fact, there are now extensive regulatory requirements around HMOs with which all landlords need to comply with.

Room sizes

The proposed HMO changes also include provision for the minimum floor area of a letting room occupied by a single adult to be 6.51m2 and 10.22m2 for two adults sharing. A mandatory licencing condition will be introduced requiring local authorities to specify which rooms in an HMO are suitable for use as sleeping accommodation and by how many adults and children.

New guidance

The National Landlords Association explain that local authorities will have a duty to raise awareness of the changes and to accept applications in advance of this date. To aid with this, the Government is expected to publish guidance soon, targeted at local authorities but also useful for landlords, to help everyone understand the requirements.

23 March 2018

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