New regulations have been made to mandatory licensing of HMOs – now defined as multi-occupied properties where there are five or more people, forming two or more separate households.
Let’s take a look at the main changes.
THE NEW DEFINITION OF HMO
First of all, there’s the change in definition, as mention above. The old definition included the words ‘and comprising of three or more storeys’. These words have now been removed.
What this means is that HMOs no longer need to be a specific number of storeys to require a mandatory licence.
IS MY CURRENT LICENCE STILL VALID?
Your current licence will be valid until its expiration date, which is usually five years from the date of issue.
After it expires, you’ll need to apply for a new license. If your property is occupied by five or more people that together form two or more separate households, then it will now form part of the mandatory licencing scheme.
A single household is defined by Section 258 of The Housing Act 2004 as a family being made up of either a couple (whether married or not and including same-sex couples) or persons related to one another. Relatives include parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins, half-relatives and stepchildren.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A LICENCE
If you let an HMO that didn’t previously require licensing but does now because of the new regulations, you’ll need to apply for a license through your local housing authority.
Authorities should have made details relating to their mandatory licencing scheme available on their website. But many have yet to update their site to reflect the new legislation.
Local authorities are permitted to grant a grace period of up to 18 months to enable compliance.
ARE THERE OTHER NEW HMO LICENCING RULES?
Another change in HMO regulations relates to waste disposal requirements. A mandatory condition of a licence is that an HMO must comply with the local authority’s waste policy in relation to storing and disposal of waste.
In addition, there are new rules around minimum sleeping room sizes. The minimum requirement for a sleeping room for a person over 10 years of age is 6.51 square metres and a room for two persons over 10 years of age is 10.22 square metres. The minimum size for one child under the age of 10 years is 4.64 square metres.
These sleeping room size requirements are a minimum standard and not intended to be optimal room sizes. Your local housing is able to set their own higher standards within licence conditions.
Government guidance is that local authorities should implement their own policies and procedures to assess minimum room size conditions. Some authorities may decide to inspect properties.
SLEEPING ROOMS BELOW THE MINIMUM STANDARD
If you have a sleeping room below the minimum standard, it will need to be altered to meet requirements. If you cannot change it, you will need to stop using it, or you will be in breach of HMO licencing.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FAIL TO COMPLY WITH HMO LICENCING?
It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with new HMO licencing requirements, and if convicted, you could be liable to an unlimited fine. Or, your local authority could decide to impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000.
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