Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – Are you up to date with the new Regulations?

On 1st October 2018, the new government regulations will bring three main changes to HMO Licences: the Occupancy test, a minimum sleeping room size and a requirement for compliance with provisions for waste disposal. In accordance with Government guidance on the new regulations, the aim of extending these regulations is to limit the prevalence of rogue landlords exploiting the current HMO regime. The new regulations will extend the mandatory conditions and the requirement for a license to all HMOs that fall under the stated criteria below. 

What changes will be made and what is the stated criteria?

Occupancy test

Currently, Licences need to be obtained by landlords for HMOs with more than five occupants living across three or more storeys. The new regulations will mean that licenses will be required for HMOs with five or more people living over two or more households, irrespective of how many storeys there are in the property.

On 1st October 2018, properties that meets the following criteria will be subject to mandatory licensing. The property is:

  • occupied by five or more persons (including children) who are living in two or more separate households; and
  • Meets one of the following tests:
    1. The standard test under section 254(2) of the Housing Act 2004 (the ‘Act’) or;
    2. The self-contained flat test under 254 (3) of the Act, but is not a purpose built flat in a block comprising three of more self-contained flats; or
    3. The converted building test under 254(4) of the Act.

The above tests are met if:

  1. the building, which has at least two households (other than a self-contained flat) which share a basic amenity, or the living accommodation is lacking in a basic amenity. As set out in the Act, a basic amenity could include be a lavatory, washing facilities or cooking facilities. This applies to shared houses as well as bedsits;
  2. the flat is occupied by more than five persons in more than one household and the flat lacks a basic amenity. This includes if the flat is built above or below commercial premises. This needs to be licenced if they are not purpose-built flats situated in a block of three or more self-contained flats.
  3. a building has been converted and one or more of the units is not a self-contained flat.

As is currently the case, it is the individual HMO that is required to be licenced and not the property or building within which the HMO is situated. This means where a building has two flats, and each is occupied by more than five people living in two households, each flat will require a separate HMO Licence.

Minimum sleeping room sizes 

  • The new mandatory conditions of licences (minimum sleeping room sizes and compliance with waste disposal) must be met before local housing authorities grant a new licence.
  • The minimum sleeping room size condition will apply to HMOs which are licenced from October 2018. The condition will not apply to existing licences issued before October 2018, until the existing licence expires.
  • The new minimum sleeping room size conditions are that no room can be smaller than:
    1. 6.51 metres squared for one person over the age of 10;
    2. 10.22 metres squared for two persons over the age of 10;
    3. 4.64 metres squared for one child under the age of 10.
  • Any room smaller than 4.64 metres squared may not be used as sleeping accommodation.
  • The landlord must ensure that they notify the local housing authority of any room in the HMO with a floor space of less than 4.64 metres squared.
  • There is also a requirement that if there is any area in the sleeping room which has a ceiling height of lower than 1.5 metres, this cannot meet the minimum size conditions for a sleeping room.

Local authorities will have discretion to set higher standards within the licensing conditions but will not be able to set lower standards than set out above. 

Are there any exemptions from this requirement?

  • The minimum sleeping room size condition does not apply to charities providing shelter or temporary accommodation for people suffering from recovering drugs or alcohol abuse.
  • This condition will not be breached by temporary visitors if they are not classed as occupants.

Waste Disposal Provisions

From October 2018, local authorities will be required to impose a mandatory condition that all licenced HMOs comply with the council’s storage and waste disposal schemes. Failure to comply is a breach of licence and criminal offence.

What if I already have a licence?  

Properties which fall under the new scheme, but which have already been licenced under the old rules will be ‘passported’ into the new mandatory licensing, at no extra cost to the Landlord. Landlords will only be required to obtain a licence under the new requirements once their previous licence has expired. The extended mandatory licensing conditions (minimum sleeping room sizes and waste disposal requirements will apply from the date of the renewal of the existing license or obtaining the new licence).

What should a Landlord do to make sure they comply?  

Landlords should begin reviewing their properties in preparation of the changes and seek advice if necessary. Landlords must submit applications for the HMO licensing before 1 October 2018 or they could face sanctions. All licences will take effect from the 1 October 2018.

When a landlord applies for a new licence under these changes, they will only be granted a licence if they can satisfy the mandatory minimum sleeping room sizes and waste disposal provision requirements. The Local Authority may request to review room sizes and properties. 

Will a Landlord be granted a licence?  

Local housing authorities are under a duty to grant the licence if they are satisfied that:

  1. the house is suitable for occupation for the maximum number of households or persons named in the application;
  2. the proposed licence holder is the appropriate and proper person to be the licence holder;
  3. the proposed manager of the house is the person having control of the house or the agent, or employee of that person; and
  4. the proposed management arrangements are otherwise satisfactory. 

What if a landlord doesn’t get a licence, or breaches the conditions?

If the landlord or letting agent fails to get a licence, the landlord could face unlimited fines under the Housing Act 2004 or local authorities have the power to issue a landlord with a fine of £30,000 per offence as an alternative to court procedures. Tenants as well as local authorities, may have additional remedies including claiming rent back from the Landlord, should they fail to obtain a licence. If a landlord unknowingly breaches a condition (i.e. a tenant gives birth to a child, and the landlord was not aware she was pregnant) - then the local authority must allow a reasonable period of up to 18 months for the landlord to remedy the breach.

If you would like to discuss the implications of the new HMO regime, please contact a member of our team on 0207 821 8211.

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