The Changes to HMOs You Need to Know About
From 1 October 2018, significant changes are being made to which HMOs are licensable and minimum room sizes in HMOs in England.
Changes to mandatory licensing
Before the change, a property required a mandatory licence if all of the following applied:
- the property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) (occupied by individuals who are not all related to one another); and
- five or more individuals occupy the property; and
- the property has three storeys or more
In addition to mandatory licensing, a local authority can designate specified areas as subject to additional licensing (where any HMO requires a licence regardless of occupiers and storeys) or selective licensing (where any rented property requires a licence).
From 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing is changing, and The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 will replace the 2006 order of the same name.
The 3-storeys element is being removed, meaning that any HMO occupied by five or more individuals (not all related to one another) will require an HMO licence.
The licence must be applied for before 1 October 2018 to continue renting out the property lawfully.
Many local authorities offer discounts for the early adoption of a licence. Furthermore, some local authorities will provide a discount for accredited landlords, which is also worth a look.
Minimum HMO Room Sizes
The regulations which will introduce minimum room sizes in HMOs have been published and commence on 1 October 2018.
The minimum room sizes will be introduced by way of conditions in a mandatory or additional HMO licence and, as such, only apply to licensable HMOs.
The minimum room size doesn't apply to selective licensing.
For all mandatory or additional HMO licences granted on or after 1 October 2018, mandatory conditions must be attached to the licence by the local authority requiring the licence holder -
- to notify the local housing authority of any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres.
- to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged over ten years is not less than 6.51 square metres;
- to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by two persons aged over ten years is not less than 10.22 square metres;
- to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged under ten years is not less than 4.64 square metres;
- any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres is not used as sleeping accommodation.
In addition to those conditions, further conditions will be included in the licence whereby the licence holder must ensure that -
- where any room in the HMO is used as sleeping accommodation by persons aged over ten years only, it is not used as such by more than the maximum number of persons aged over ten years specified in the licence;
- where any room in the HMO is used as sleeping accommodation by persons aged under ten years only, it is not used as such by more than the maximum number of persons aged under ten years specified in the licence;
- where any room in the HMO is used as sleeping accommodation by persons aged over ten years and persons aged under ten years, it is not used as such by more than the maximum number of persons aged over ten years specified in the licence and the maximum number of persons aged under ten years so specified.
Furthermore, conditions will be included dealing with a breach of any of the earlier conditions within a specified time scale where the licence holder has not knowingly permitted the breach and the local authority has notified the licence holder of the violation.
The specified time scale the local authority must give the licence holder to rectify the breach will be 18 months (but it can be anything less than that period).
The number of persons sleeping does not include a visitor of an occupier, and a room used as sleeping accommodation is such -
if it is normally used as a bedroom, whether or not it is also used for other purposes.
Calculating the floor area
Any part of the room in which the ceiling height is less than 1.5 metres is not to be considered in determining the floor area of that room.
Existing licensed HMOs
Where there is somebody already occupying a room in an HMO, and a licence is granted on or after 1 October 2018 (regardless of whether a licence was in place before 1 October 2018 or not), the local authority must notify the licence holder of the breach and give a period to the licence holder to stop the breach.
The time must not exceed 18 months (but can be less). During this period allowed to the licence holder,
- the local housing authority may not revoke the licence for a breach (or repeated breach) of any condition of the licence specified in the notification,
- the licence holder does not commit an offence in respect of any failure to comply with such a condition, and
- the local housing authority may not impose a financial penalty in respect of such a failure.
However, this leniency does NOT apply if, before the licence was granted, the licence holder was convicted of an offence under section 72(2) (too many occupiers) or (3) (failure to comply with a condition of a licence) about the HMO.
Household waste condition
The regulations have slipped in a further condition that will be inserted into a mandatory license:
Where the HMO is in England, a licence under Part 2 must include conditions requiring the licence holder to comply with any scheme which is provided by the local housing authority to the licence holder and which relates to the storage and disposal of household waste at the HMO pending collection.
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View Related Handbook Page
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.