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HMO changes on the ground and what they mean for you

Tuesday 13 November 2018

By Carl Agar

On the 1st of October 2018 the legislation impacting mandatory HMO Licensing was updated.

This meant that the regulations governing HMOs with 5 or more occupiers changed significantly, and consequently landlords may be required to update their existing properties - or apply for a license for some of their existing properties that historically may not have needed one.

This is more significant than landlords think…

It’s imperative that landlords interact with their local authorities to understand how they intend to implement the new rules, and whether or not they’ll be applied to YOU.

For me, the extent of the issue really hit home during a conversation I had with a local authority housing officer who told me that the number of licenced HMOs in their area was going to jump from 3,000 properties to 6,000! That really could mean you.

The topic of HMO Mandatory licensing is quite complex, especially following the changes, but now that the dust has settled I thought it may be useful to summarise just a few of the key points:

  • Applications – The license must have been applied for by the 1st of October 2018 otherwise you are currently breaking the law.
  • Criteria – The number of storey rule has been removed. This now means that any property containing 5 or more occupiers, creating 2 or more households, will require a licence. Flats above shops now also come into scope.
  • Room Sizes – The minimum size of a bedroom sleeping one adult is 6.51 m2 and a room sleeping two adults is 10.22 m2. This applies to a HMO with communal facilities including a shared living room or dining room. However, in an HMO that does not have a shared living room or dining room, then a room that sleeps one adult will need to be 10.22 m2. It’s worth noting that such sizes exclude any ensuite faculties and are still subject to local authority discretion.
  • Household Waste – A new condition has been slipped into the mended legislation to ensure landlord compliance with waste management in the area.

You can a find the full details here.

Reflecting on the above, these changes are not only an issue for landlords. It’s a big worry that many local authorities don’t seem to have the resources available to manage this new workload – as you can see from the latest research Simple Landlords pulled together from FOI requests.

Many local authorities are now faced with at least twice as many licenses to process and check with the same amount of human resource - leaving even less time for enforcement.

This is a real issue for big cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds - who are looking at large numbers of new properties to identify, license, and then manage. However, beware, just because local authorities may not be able to process your application as quick as they would like, it doesn’t mean you can’t be prosecuted after the 1st of October for not having a license!

The law is very clear, if the new rules apply to you then you need to get your application submitted immediately.

Whilst I understand and support the rationale behind the recent changes, I do think that the new rules are going to be practically impossible to enforce with the current level of resources at the local authorities’ disposal. And that’s a shame.

The government is essentially going to be relying on honest landlords coming forward to apply for a licence - leaving the so-called rogue or down-right criminal landlords that really need to be licensed - out of scope.

In my opinion the government needs to encourage local authorities to find new ways of working in order to enable them to better focus their resources on identifying the criminal landlords and ensuring compliance with their licence schemes. That’s how we’re going to improve the sector for everyone.

Finally, just a quick tip for you, when applying for your license don’t forget to ask your local authority if any discounts are available. You may find that discounts are available for members of accreditation schemes or landlord associations.

Good luck.

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Article by:

Carl Agar

Carl Agar

Carl Agar is the managing Director of Big Red House letting agents, founder and Chief Executive of The Home Safe Scheme, has been the Yorkshire representative of the National Landlords Association for the last decade - the UK’s largest landlord association, as well as being a Landlord and Investor.