Landlords across England and Wales let approximately half a million sub-divided properties to tenants. These properties are commonly known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (“HMOs”).
What is an HMO?
An HMO is a property that is rented by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’ (e.g. a family); but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It is often known as a house share.
Currently, a landlord must have a licence (valid for a maximum of five years) if letting out a “large HMO”. A large HMO is a property that is:
- Let out to five or more people who form more than one household;
- Is at least three storeys high; and
- Has shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.
Landlords must obtain the relevant licence from their local authority prior to letting properties as HMOs. If they do not, they face unlimited fines (if prosecuted) for doing so without prior consent.
On 28 December 2017, the Government announced changes to the law concerning HMOs, due to come into force in April 2018. National mandatory licensing of HMO properties only currently applies if the three criteria above are met. The Government’s announcement, however, confirms that they are extending mandatory licensing to include properties of any size. This means that landlords will require licences for HMOs let to five or more people not only in three-storey properties, but also in flats and one and two-storey properties.
Banning Orders and Landlord Database
If landlords do not comply with the HMO legislation, they face criminal prosecution or a civil penalty of up to £30,000. From April 2018, a local authority will be able to apply to the Tribunal for an order banning a landlord or letting agent from carrying out that role in the future. Further, a local authority may add a landlord or letting agent to a national database of rogue landlords/letting agents.
The Government is also introducing new requirements for minimum amounts of space per bedroom. Rooms sleeping one adult must be no smaller than 6.51 square metres; any rooms sleeping two adults must be no smaller than 10.22 square metres. Rooms slept in by children aged 10 or younger must be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.
The new licences will specify the maximum number of people who may occupy each room. The total number of occupants across the rooms must be the same as the number of people for whom the property is suitable to live in.
If you are a landlord and require advice concerning HMOs, or your tenants in any rented accommodation, our residential disputes team can assist. We offer a FREE initial consultation. Call us today on 0800 988 7756.