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Landlords need to be aware of changes to HMO legislation

Do you own a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)? Essentially, this is a let property accommodating three or more tenants who comprise more than one separate household and share such basic facilities as a bathroom and toilet or kitchen. If you are in any doubt, our Landlords Guide to HMOs, published on the 2nd of March 2018, may offer more detailed advice.

Changes to HMO legislation

You also need to be aware of recent changes to legislation regarding HMOs which comes into effect from the 1st of October this year.

Get caught out by the impending new legislation and you might face fines of up to £30,000 – or even be handed down a criminal conviction – warns an article in the Daily Mail newspaper on the 7th of September 2018.

The new rules are part of the government’s concerted action to improve the overall quality of affordable rented accommodation and is targeted towards HMOs because these are sometimes of the poorest standards.

Tighter control over HMOs is to be exercised by wider licensing powers for local authorities, so that – with effect from the 1st of October 2018 – any dwelling accommodating more than five tenants in more than a single household must be licensed. In the past, the licensing requirement applied only to those HMOs of three storeys or more that accommodated more than five tenants.

The new standards

From the 1st of October, landlords of HMOs who apply for the necessary licence must comply with new standards regarding the size of the bedrooms occupied by their tenants – as part of the government’s overall objective of improving the quality of accommodation offered and to reduce the incidence of overcrowding in some HMOs.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on the 20th of June 2018, the new licensing and standards requirements are expected to affect landlords of an estimated 160,000 additional HMOs.

Local authorities also have powers to require licensing of certain other HMOs on a selective basis. The government has announced that it is reviewing how such selective licensing is working, with particular regard to the requirement that HMO landlords are “fit or proper persons” and the suitability of their management and adherence to appropriate safety standards for tenants. The results of that review are expected in the spring of 2019.

Room sizes

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), on the 8th of August 2018, published details of the new minimum sizes for bedrooms that must be met by those HMOs subject to the new legislation with effect from the 1st of October:

  • a bedroom occupied by a single adult must be no less than 6.51sqm in floor area;
  • a bedroom occupied by two adults must be no less than 10.22sqm;
  • children under the age of ten must have a bedroom with at least 4.64sqm of floor area; and
  • the HMO licence may stipulate the maximum number of people who may occupy any specific room used for sleeping accommodation.

Whilst there has been general acceptance for the introduction of minimum room sizes, it remains to be seen whether there will be any knock-on effect by way of increases in the rents that affected HMO landlords may need to charge.

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