New regulations to bring mandatory licensing to all multi-occupied properties where there are five or more people, forming two or more separate households.
The main changes are:
- Altered definition of an HMO under the Housing Act 2004: for licensing purposes, from 1/10, an HMO will be any property occupied by five or more people, forming two or more separate households.
This contrasts with the existing HMO definition which is a property occupied by 5 or more people, forming two or more separate households and comprising three or more storeys.
- If you already have an HMO license under the current definition, this will continue to be valid until the license expiration date (usually 5 years from date of issue). After the expiration you will need to apply for a new license as usual.
- If you currently let an HMO which didn’t previously require licensing but will do after the new order comes into effect later in the year, then you will need to apply for a license through the local council.
- There is an important exception: if the property is in a purpose-built block of flats comprising 3 or more units
- Regulation 2 introduces minimum room standards for those properties falling within the scope of mandatory licensing.
The proposals will prohibit landlords from letting rooms to a single adult where the usable floor space is less than 6.51sqm and 10.22sqm for a room occupied by two adults. It will be mandatory for an HMO licence to include a condition that states the maximum number of persons who may occupy each specific room in a property as sleeping accommodation.
In breach of licence condition
Landlords will have to stop letting rooms that fall below the nationally prescribed standard. If they do not, then they will be in breach of licence condition and could be prosecuted by the local authority or alternatively receive a civil penalty under the new Housing and Planning Act 2016 provisions. Rooms below the prescribed standard that have previously been found suitable for occupation will no longer be capable of being let separately as sleeping accommodation by any person aged over 10 (4.64 for children under 10).
Rooms under 4.64sqm cannot be used for sleeping. Floor area under a height standard of 1.5m is not included in the calculation.
- In the event of a breach of the minimum room size, new licenses granted after 1st October 2018 will contain a condition giving landlords 18 months to act.
- Note that landlords will also need to comply with the local council’s HMO licensing standards, which may involve making changes to comply with minimum room sizes, amenity standards (kitchen facilities, number of bathrooms etc).
- Another condition of the licenses will relate to refuse disposal and storage facilities, with minimum numbers of bins and storage facilities for waste expected to be set out by the government.
We welcome the upgrading of HMO standards but would caution that the introduction of minimum room sizing in particular, risks reducing capacity with potential knock-on effects on rent rises, as business plans are impacted.
The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 SI 2018/221 & The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licenses) (England) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/616 can be read on Gov.uk.