The government has issued a consultation paper about HMO licensing which you can read here.
As many of you will know, only some HMOs need to be licensed.
Mandatory licensing applies to all properties which are occupied by five or more tenants in two or more households in properties which have three or more storeys. The government are proposing to change this by
- Removing the storey requirement so all properties with 5 or more tenants in two or more households will need to be licensed. This will include 2 storey houses, bungalows and of course ‘beds in sheds’.
- Making flats above or below commercial premises subject to mandatory licensing, as these properties tend to have more problems and
- Setting a minimum room size of 6.52 sq m.
The consultation also looks at the evidence required for the ‘fit and proper’ person requirement (for people managing HMOs), refuse disposal facilities at HMOs and purpose-built student housing.
Plus there will be new measures for dealing with overcrowding in unlicensed HMOs.
Local Authorities will still be able to extend the scope of licensing in their area by additional licensing schemes as they do now – although when these new regulations come into force there will be less need for them.
At present breaches of the HMO regulations are dealt with by bringing a prosecution in the Magistrates Court. The consultation paper proposes introducing a new financial penalty that Local Authorities will be able to impose intended for cases of ‘lower gravity’ and where the landlord is not a serial offender.
This will be better for landlords as it will not give them a criminal offence.
The maximum financial penalty that can be awarded will be £30,000 (so not a small sum) and landlords will be able to appeal it to the First Tier Tribunal.
The paper indicates that, subject to Parliamentary approval, the new rules will be introduced in 2017. Landlords will be given a six months grace period to familiarise themselves with the rules and apply for a license.
During this time no penalties will apply, unless the property should have been licensed already under an additional licensing scheme.
If you are already licensed under an additional licensing scheme, you will be passported into the new scheme at no extra cost.
The paper also states that tenants will be liable to pay rent whether or not the property is licensed (although no doubt rent repayment orders will remain a penalty if a landlord is prosecuted for not having a license).
Are you an HMO landlord?
The post gives only a very brief overview of the consultation paper which runs to 42 pages including the annexes. It is believed that it will bring an additional 174,000 HMOs into mandatory licensing.
If you are an HMO landlord, you should read the whole of the consultation as it will affect you. If you disagree with it (or if you have any options at all – which you probably will) you should put in your responses. You may also have comments on the conclusions drawn by the impact assessment included as an annex.
The consultation period will end on 13 December at midnight.
The consultation period will end on 13 December 2017 at 12.00 am.