The Government has become concerned over the use of homes which are let for the use of rooms and other shared facilities such as a bathrooms or kitchens. Depending on the number of tenants and their relationship, the property may be defined as a HMO. Any landlord whose property is described as such is obliged to obtain a HMO licence from their local authority.
As of 1st October 2018, any landlord that lets a property to 5 or more people – from 2 or more separate households – must obtain a HMO licence from their local housing authority.
The HMO licence will stipulate various conditions that need to be fulfilled. If any of the conditions are breached then this is a criminal offence. It’s also an offence not to have a licence where a property is so defined. However, this is not so easy to define, as the below case study shows.
Duncan Lewis recently represented a client who was being prosecuted by the local authority for breaching the terms of a HMO licence, in that he did not have one for a property which was defined as a HMO.
The matter was complicated even further by the fact that it was originally one property and it was owned and lived in by the landlord. As is often the case for HMOs, the house was converted into two units with the landlord living in one. He then later moved out.
Due to the designation of the property, it became licensable and the local authority took proceedings against the landlord. On the face of such a breach, landlords may be guilty of an offence. However, in this case there was a defence of reasonable excuse.
In this case, the landlord had contacted the local authority previously and they had told him that he did not require a HMO licence. In defence, our specialist crime team put forward a robust case to show that reliance had been placed on the local authority’s advice. After a significant amount of negotiation with the local authority they indicated they would withdraw the prosecution in favour of the client accepting a caution. This involved an admission that he had no licence, but the consequences of such were minimal in comparison to a court finding the client guilty.
Any landlord who has had an allegation of breaching the terms of a HMO licence can contact our expert team of solicitors for advice on the best course of action for your case. As experienced criminal defence solicitors, with offices across England and Wales, we are able to support you through the proceedings and prepare a defence on your behalf. We can also advise on compliance with HMO licences, with specialists in housing and property litigation.
If you are a landlord and are concerned about any pending prosecutions in relation to allegations of HMO licence breach, please feel free to call us on 033 3772 0409 and ask to speak to our highly experienced Criminal Defence Director Rubin Italia for assistance.