From Monday 1st October 2018 the number of multiple occupancy properties (“HMOs”) that were previously required to be registered will almost triple as a result of new government rules set to come into force.
The previous legal position regarding HMOs was that landlords who owned properties that are 3 or more stories and house 5 or more individuals who form 2 or more separate household were required to register their properties with the local authority to enable them to legally rent out the rooms. From now on, the new rules remove the requirement that such a property must be 3 stories and states that landlords housing 5+ people in more than one household are required to hold a licence to rent the rooms in the property out to potential tenants.
In addition to amending the licencing rules for landlords of HMOs the government has also sought to impose further obligations on landlords in respect of waste/refuse storage and room sizes.
Under the rule change, landlords are now required to provide adequate waste storage facilities in accordance with the rules prescribed by their respective local authority. What is adequate is also to be determined by the relevant local authority. The Government views this as a fair and proper responsibility of a HMO landlord.
Local authorities will also need to abide by specific minimum standards in respect of bedroom sizes in HMOs. Those measurements appear to be technical and related to the age of the occupant. However, what is clear is that the licence will now specify the amount of people who are permitted to occupy one bedroom and that the amount of people in occupation must not exceed the amount of people the property is deemed suitable for. These minimum room sizes only apply to properties that fall within licensing under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004, that is mandatory or additional HMO licensing.
If a HMO does not currently meet those standards, the landlord will be given up to 18 months to make the necessary changes when re-applying to their local authority for a licence.
The Government suggests that the new rules have been introduced with a view to improve housing standards for tenants.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) warns that shared housing tenants may be more vulnerable to rent hikes after HMO landlords are forced to pay extra licensing costs.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates the licensing process could cost landlords £1,200 each, on average, which does not take into account any repairs or measures they may need to take should they fail inspection.
With more registrations coming through to local councils, there will be an increased pressure on landlords to make sure their properties pass inspection to then receive certification in order to keep the properties available for lease.
One tenant, Rrouse, has been living in HMOs for 9 years in a bid to save for a house of his own. He complains that the properties he has rented are often of poor quality, with little regard for the people who are living in them:
"It's a sociable way to rent, but the quality of the properties can vary. I've had HMOs where gas leaks have been common, carpets haven't been fitted and whole kitchen units have fallen off the wall."
And if the risk of increased rent isn’t off-putting enough, in a bid to avoid this licensing requirement, some landlords may reduce the number of rooms they rent out, which could make tenants more vulnerable to eviction.
Likewise, there are severe penalties for landlords who fail to abide by the rule change. If a HMO is let out without a licence then a landlord who does so is liable to being prosecuted by their relevant local authority in the Magistrates Court – the fine for breaches of the Housing Act 2004 has been unlimited since 2015, or liable to being issued with civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution.
It is important to know your rights and responsibilities as a HMO landlord and as a tenant who is living in shared accommodation.
As a solicitors specialising in housing law for landlords and tenants, Gareth Hutton, is able to assist in a wide range of matters including, possession claims, homelessness and unlawful eviction. He has a broad client base in those areas of law and is passionate about exhausting every last avenue to ensure that he gets the best results for his clients.
For advice on this, or any other housing matter contact Gareth on 020 7923 8457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors
Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors can assist in any issues arising with local housing authorities, housing applications, tenants, landlords, ownership and repairs.
If you have any housing queries contact our team on 0333 772 0409.