News & Insights

Changes to the Law on Houses in Multiple Occupation

Time is running out for landlords to apply for licences under new legislation that took effect on 1 October 2018. Are you prepared?

From 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing of HMOs is changing pursuant to The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 which will replace the previous legislation.

Currently mandatory licensing applies to large Houses in Multiple Occupation (“HMOs”). These are properties where all of the following apply:

  1. the HMO is occupied by 5 or more individuals in 2 or more single households; and
  1. they share basic facilities (ie. for washing and cooking); and
  1. the property has 3 storeys or more.

From 1 October 2018, however, this has changed. The government has decided to widen the net to include smaller HMOs

The 3 storeys element has been removed meaning that any HMO occupied by 5 or more individuals, living in 2 or more households, will require an HMO licence.

The licence should have been applied for before 1 October 2018 if you are to continue to lawfully rent out a property as an HMO. There is no grace period. Not having a licence is a criminal offence with the potential for a hefty fine.

A licence will be valid for up to five years and each HMO property will require a separate licence.

Minimum Room Sizes

From 1 October 2018, there are minimum room sizes to which you will have to adhere to lawfully rent out an HMO property. A licence under the mandatory scheme will have to include conditions requiring you to ensure that any room used for sleeping is:-

  • not less than 6.51sqm for one person over the age of 10;
  • not less than 10.22sqm for two persons over the age of 10;
  • not less than 4.64sqm for one person under the age of 10; and
  • any room within an HMO property with less than 4.64sqm will have to flagged to the local authority.

It remains to be seen how local authorities will implement these conditions and they will have a certain amount of discretion to increase the minimum measurements. What is clear is that a room is seen as “sleeping accommodation” if the occupiers use it as a bedroom, regardless of whether they have alternative uses for it too.

Household Waste

There is a new mandatory condition that you, as a licence holder, will have to observe your local authority’s scheme relating to the storage and disposal of household waste.

Such information is available from most local authorities and we would recommend that the obligations of the scheme are drafted into the letting or licence agreements that you enter into with the occupiers.

Again, failure to abide by this condition is a criminal offence.

Transitional Periods

HMO properties that fall into the scope of the new definition of an HMO but that already have a licence (under a mandatory scheme or additional scheme (ie. those introduced by the local authority)), will still have a valid licence. Its conditions will apply until it expires. On renewal, the new mandatory conditions in relation to room sizes and waste disposal will apply.

For any property that, after 1 October 2018, falls into the new definition of an HMO, but is already licensed under a local authorities selective scheme, the licence will have effect as if it were an HMO licence. On expiry, you will have to apply for an HMO licence that will contain the new mandatory conditions.

Anyone that does not have an existing licence for a property that falls into the new definition of an HMO should get their house in order, if they have not done so already, and make an application to their local authority.