Changes to mandatory licensing
Currently, a property requires a mandatory licence if all of the following apply:
- the property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) (occupied by individuals who are not all related to one another); and
- the property is occupied by five or more individuals; and
- the property has 3 storeys or more
In addition to mandatory licensing, a local authority can designate specified areas as being subject to additional licensing (where any HMO requires a licence regardless of occupiers and storeys) or selective licensing (where any rented property requires a licence).
From 1 October in England, mandatory licensing is changing and The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 will replace the 2006 order of the same name.
The 3 storeys element is being removed meaning that any HMO occupied by 5 or more individuals (not all related to one another) will require an HMO licence.
The licence must be applied for before 1 October 2018 in order to lawfully continue renting out the property.
Many local authorities offer discounts for early adoption of a licence which may be worth looking into. Furthermore, some local authorities will offer a discount to accredited landlords which is also worth a look at.
Minimum HMO Room Sizes
The regulations which will introduce minimum room sizes in HMOs have been published. Assuming passed in their current form, they will be introduced in England from 1 October 2018 (but see later for existing properties).
The minimum room sizes will be introduced by way of conditions in a mandatory or additional HMO licence and as such only apply to licensable HMOs. The minimum room size doesn’t apply to selective licensing.
For all mandatory or additional HMO licences granted on or after 1 October 2018, mandatory conditions must be attached to the licence by the local authority requiring the licence holder –
- to notify the local housing authority of any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres.
- to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged over 10 years is not less than 6.51 square metres;
- to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by two persons aged over 10 years is not less than 10.22 square metres;
- to ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged under 10 years is not less than 4.64 square metres;
- to ensure that any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres is not used as sleeping accommodation.
In addition to those conditions, further conditions will be included in the licence whereby the licence holder must ensure that –
- where any room in the HMO is used as sleeping accommodation by persons aged over 10 years only, it is not used as such by more than the maximum number of persons aged over 10 years specified in the licence;
- where any room in the HMO is used as sleeping accommodation by persons aged under 10 years only, it is not used as such by more than the maximum number of persons aged under 10 years specified in the licence;
- where any room in the HMO is used as sleeping accommodation by persons aged over 10 years and persons aged under 10 years, it is not used as such by more than the maximum number of persons aged over 10 years specified in the licence and the maximum number of persons aged under 10 years so specified.
Furthermore, conditions will be included dealing with a breach of any of the earlier conditions within a specified time-scale where the licence holder has not knowingly permitted the breach and the local authority have notified the licence holder of the breach. The specified time-scale that the local authority must give the licence holder to rectify the breach will be a maximum of 18 months (but can be anything less than that time-period).
The number of persons sleeping does not include a visitor of an occupier and a room used as sleeping accommodation is such –
if it is normally used as a bedroom, whether or not it is also used for other purposes.
Calculating the floor area
Any part of the room which the height of the ceiling is less than 1.5 metres is not to be taken into account in determining the floor area of that room.
Existing licensed HMOs
Where there is somebody already occupying a room in an HMO and a licence is granted on or after 1 October 2018 (regardless of whether a licence was in place prior to 1 October 2018 or not), the local authority must notify the licence holder of the breach and give a period of time to the licence holder to stop the breach. The time given must not exceed 18 months (but can be less).
During this period allowed to the licence holder,
- the local housing authority may not revoke the licence for a breach (or repeated breach) of any condition of the licence specified in the notification,
- the licence holder does not commit an offence in respect of any failure to comply with such a condition, and
- the local housing authority may not impose a financial penalty in respect of such a failure.
However, this leniency does NOT apply if, before the licence was granted, the licence holder was convicted of an offence under section 72(2) (too many occupiers) or (3) (failure to comply with a condition of a licence) in relation to the HMO.
Household waste condition
A further condition that will be inserted into a mandatory license has been slipped in by the regulations:
Where the HMO is in England, a licence under Part 2 must include conditions requiring the licence holder to comply with any scheme which is provided by the local housing authority to the licence holder and which relates to the storage and disposal of household waste at the HMO pending collection.