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HMO and residential property licensing reforms

Last year the government published a technical discussion paper on extending the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

The government’s proposals are designed to increase the number of properties that will be subject to mandatory licensing. They are:

• To remove the storey rule so all houses with 5 or more people from 2 or more households are included in the scheme

• Extend mandatory licensing to flats above and below business premises (regardless of storeys)

• Set a minimum size of 6.52sq-m for one person (or 10.23sqm for two) derived from the overcrowding standard in the Housing Act 1985. This is seeking to close a perceived issue created by a upper-tier tribunal ruling in Manchester City Council v Clark.

The proposals are expected to come into force in April 2017. The new room size standards will not apply to existing licences that have already been granted but will come into force when they are renewed.

There will be a grace period of 6 months for landlords who do not currently have a licence to apply for a license. Those landlords who already have a licence because their local authority has an additional licensing scheme in force will be transferred to the new scheme automatically.

Landlords that fail to comply with the new legislation will face criminal prosecutions and new civil penalties of up to £30,000 at the end of the 6 month grace period.

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