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Changes to the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation [HMOs]


1.Background

The Housing Act 2004 contains various provisions relating to the licensing of privately rented properties

Part 2 deals with the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation [HMOs]; it includes a requirement that all HMOs that fall within the ‘prescribed definition’ of HMO are required, on a national basis, to be licensed – these are often referred to as ‘mandatory’ HMOs as any other address that is required to be licensed would be decided at a local level through discretionary Additional HMO and/or Selective Licensing schemes

At present, mandatory HMO licensing applies to properties that:

  • Have 3 or more floors
  • Have 5 or more residents
  • Forming 2 or more households

From 1 October 2018, the prescribed definition of mandatory HMOs will be widened such that more properties fall within the scope of mandatory HMO licensing


2.The revised definition of ‘mandatory HMO’

From 1 October 2018, most properties will require an HMO licence if they accommodate 5 or more persons forming 2 or more households

This revised definition will include all houses and individual converted flats accommodating 5 or more persons and 2 or more households and some purpose-built flats [multiply-occupied purpose-built flats in a block containing 3 or more purpose-built flats will fall outside the scope of mandatory licensing]

There are no changes to the standard exemptions of properties that will not require an HMO licence

The revised prescribed definition of a mandatory HMO will not, therefore, include all HMO properties; multiply occupied properties occupied by 3 or 4 persons will fall outside the scope of mandatory HMO licensing as will individual purpose-built flats accommodating more than 5 persons in blocks where there are 3 or more flats. It is likely that the new mandatory HMO definition will cause some uncertainty and confusion amongst landlords in relation to multiply occupied flats due to the different rules that apply to ‘converted’ and ‘purpose-built flats’. The Government has not provided significant guidance in this area – for example, would a flat in a building [e.g. a former warehouse] ‘converted’ into self-contained flats be regarded as converted or purpose built?


3.Additional changes

In addition to the licensing changes, new mandatory conditions will need to be included in licences stipulating the minimum sizes of rooms that may be used for sleeping accommodation in licensed HMOs.

Government guidance states that the mandatory room size conditions will be the statutory minimum and are not intended to be the optimal room size. Local housing authorities will continue to have discretion to set their own higher standards within licence conditions, but must not set lower standards

Local housing authorities are required to give landlords time to comply with the new room size standards in respect of the first licence granted on or after 1st October 2018 (whether or not the HMO was licenced immediately before that date) of up to 18 months

A mandatory condition will also be introduced to require the licence holder to comply with their local authority scheme (if any) for the provision of facilities for the proper disposal and storage of domestic refuse.

The new conditions will apply to HMOs which are required to be licensed under Part 2 of the 2004 Act from 1 October 2018. The condition will not apply to existing licences issued before 1 October 2018, until the current licence expires.

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