New rules for HMOs Photo by Tom Thain on Unsplash

Extending licensing will ensure more tenants benefit from better quality accommodation

New rules which will help protect more people in privately rented homes from poor living conditions and overcrowding have come into force this month.

Landlords who let out a property to 5 or more people, from 2 or more separate households that share facilities (homes in multiple occupation, HMO), must get a licence from their local housing authority.

Previously, the rules only applied to properties of 3 or more storeys, but now all properties will be covered.

In the last two years, Central Bedfordshire Council took action over three HMOs. A council spokesperson said:

“We work hard to keep private rented tenants safe and we welcome the new licensing rules, which will enable us to work with landlords to ensure good quality privately rented properties are provided.

“It is important that the most vulnerable households are protected and that we work with landlords to eliminate poor housing conditions. These new rules will help us take action when landlords do not meet their obligations.

“It also empowers private tenants to apply for rent repayment orders where they have been living in unhealthy and dangerous living conditions, so should really help improve the quality of properties available to rent in the housing market.”

Bedford Borough Council took five cases through the court in the last two years, and achived convictions for unlicensed HMO’s. It also carried out 488 inspections over that time. A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said

“The Council has had its own Additional HMO licensing scheme for the last 5 years and has licensed over 700 properties under that scheme plus approx. 100 as part of the old mandatory licensing scheme.

“Although the new rules change the definition of an HMO and bring more properties into the scope of the new mandatory scheme, those are properties that would have previously been licensed under our Additional HMO licensing scheme and met our minimum safety standard.”

Addressing the balance between landlord and tenant

This clampdown is one of a number of government measures to rebalance the relationship between landlords and tenants.

Under the new rules, all bedrooms must be at least 6.5 square metres and councils must ensure tenants have suitable space to store their rubbish outside homes.

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said:

“Everyone renting a home has the right to expect it is maintained to a decent standard.

“Extending licensing to 170,000 [across the UK] more properties will ensure people benefit from better quality accommodation across the country.”

Advice for landlords

Before a landlord gets a HMO licence, they must prove to the council they are a ‘fit and proper’ person and the property is of a suitable standard for the number of residents. Councils can put in place conditions about how the HMO is managed.

All HMOs with any number of storeys that have 5 or more tenants, who aren’t related, and who share facilities like kitchens or lavatories, will now need a licence.

Landlords should speak to their council about getting a licence, or they could face enforcement action.

If the HMO already has a licence under a local authority ‘additional or selective licensing’ scheme, then the landlord will not need to apply for a new licence until it expires.

The rules came into force on 1 October 2018.