A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a building which consists of one or more units of accommodation which are occupied by persons who form more than one household.

Currently, under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004, an HMO is subject to mandatory licensing if it comprises three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more people living as two or more single households.

In October 2016 the Government produced a consultation paper which proposed to extend the types of property subject to mandatory licensing and to introduce a minimum floor area for sleeping accommodation. In December 2017 the Government responded to the consultation and announced its plans to implement secondary legislation to this effect, which is expected to be in force by October 2018.

It is anticipated that as a result of this legislation, around 174,000 HMOs will become subject to mandatory licensing requirements in addition to the 60,000 that are currently so subject.

The secondary legislation proposes to do the following:

  1. Extend the mandatory licensing requirement to all HMOs, regardless of the number of storeys;
  2. Extend the mandatory licensing requirement to purpose built flats where there are no more than two flats in the block with one or both occupied by five or more persons in two or more households;
  3. Introduce minimum room sizes for HMOs so that:
    – a room with floor area of less than 6.51m2 cannot be occupied for sleeping purposes by anyone over the age of 10 years old;
    – if a room is used as sleeping accommodation for two persons, it must have a usable floor area of 10.22m2 or more;
    – any room with usable floor area between 4.64m2 and 6.5m2 may only be occupied as sleeping accommodation for children under 10 years old where the room is let in connection with another room with floor area greater than 6.51m2 occupied by the child’s parent or guardian;
    – for the purposes of calculating usable floor area, the minimum ceiling height is 1.5m;
  4. Require the license to specify whether rooms are used for sleeping and the number of people occupying each of those rooms; and
  5. Include a condition in all HMO licenses requiring the provision of suitable facilities for refuse and storage disposal.

The aim of extending the mandatory licensing requirements is to improve the conditions for tenants living in HMOs and put their welfare first. The changes are anticipated to have the effect of reducing the number of ‘rogue’ landlords renting HMOs and thereby improve the market.

The introduction of the minimum floor area is intended to resolve the issue surrounding overcrowding in HMOs and overcome the previous problems with prosecuting owners for overcrowding offences.

The potential impact for tenants

  • The reforms are intended to offer greater protection for tenants. Tenants should therefore expect improved living conditions and habitable room sizes;
  • Unfortunately the changes could mean that rents could increase; tenants currently living at reduced rent due to small-sized rooms could be subject to rent hikes once the new legislation comes into force;

Ultimately tenants should be aware of their rights and be prepared to report landlords that are failing to comply with the minimum requirements of the new legislation.

The potential impact for landlords

  • More landlords will be required to apply for their houses or flats to be licensed which will result in increased fees to be paid to their local council;
  • In some cases a landlord may be required to carry out works to their property in order to comply with the new stricter regime;
  • There will be greater sanctions for failure to comply with licensing requirements;
  • There will be a grace period of 6 months for the changeover to take place. Landlords should therefore take the opportunity now to familiarise themselves with the new requirements and to ensure that those requirements are complied with and the relevant licenses are applied for in good time. It is not known how many applications are expected, but it could take time for them to be processed.

For further information regarding this topic or any other property and construction dispute, please contact Joanna Osborne – Head of Property Litigation, Curtis Payn – Associate, or any member of Edwin Coe Property Litigation team.

Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.

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