Government Finally Reveals New HMO Guidance

The government has finally revealed to landlords how health and safety rules for shared houses will impact their property businesses. 

From October 1 2018, private landlords renting out homes to five or more tenants from two or more separate households must have a local authority licence. The measure will net around 160,000 houses in multiple occupation in England. 

The aim, says the government, is to protect tenants from poor living standards in homes owned by a small number of landlords renting out overcrowded homes in unsafe conditions. 

The new rules include setting minimum sizes for bedrooms in shared houses to stop overcrowding and forcing landlords to take responsibility for their tenants’ rubbish. Housing Minister Heather Wheeler said: Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live.

“The new guidance for landlords will further protect private renters against bad and overcrowded conditions and poor management practice.”

A guidance document for local councils aims to standardise HMO rules across England and details a new definition of an HMO that requires a licence. 

Two tests are applied to determine how a property is occupied and what building it is. 

The occupancy test requires a home to have five or more tenants from two or more separate households. 

The building test is more complicated but removes the rule stating an HMO should be of three or more storeys to include bungalows and two-storey homes for the first time.

“Some opportunist rogue landlords who exploit their vulnerable tenants rent out sub-standard, overcrowded and potentially dangerous accommodation. The growth of HMOs has also had an impact on the local community, including where inadequate rubbish storage leads to pest infestation and health and safety problems,” says the guidance document. 

“Following extensive consultation, we have acted to combat rogues from being able to operate substandard accommodation for maximum profit by extending the scope of mandatory HMO licensing so that properties used as HMOs in England which house five people or more in two or more separate households will in many cases require a licence.”

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Licensing of Private Rented Properties

The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing of private rented premises. It is compulsory to license larger, higher-risk dwellings, but local authorities are also able to license other types of rented premises, including other lower-risk HMOs and individual houses and flats, if they can establish that other avenues for tackling problems in these properties have been exhausted.