Mandatory HMO licensing extension

Earlier this month the Housing Minister stated in response to a written question that the scope of mandatory HMO licensing will be extended, likely by October this year. Parliamentary approval of new regulations to implement this change will need to be sought but we do not expect any obstacles in the way of this approval.

Until the regulations are produced it is only possible to understand how this will work from the government’s response to the earlier Consultation on the mandatory licensing extension.

The extension of mandatory HMO licensing:

  • Will apply where the property is occupied by five persons or more in two or more households, regardless of the number of storeys.
  • This includes any HMO which is a building or a converted flat where such households lack or share basic amenities such as a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities.
  • It also applies to purpose-built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as an HMO.
  • The new rules will be introduced in two phases. Most likely, the regulations will come into force in October 2018 with a 6-month grace period for landlords to comply before enforcement action is taken against them.

Minimum room sizes

As part of this extension the Government will also introduce mandatory conditions in licences to regulate the size and use of rooms as sleeping accommodation in licensed HMOs:

  • By prescribing an absolute minimum size of rooms that may be used for sleeping. A single person room will need to have a useable floor area of between 6.51sqm and 10.21sqm and a double a minimum of 10.22sqm.
  • By introducing a mandatory licencing condition requiring local authorities to specify which rooms in an HMO are suitable for sleeping accommodation, and for how many adults and children. There will be no difference in how children over the age of 10 and adults are counted for the purposes of this condition.
  • Where the room size requirements are not met the local authority may give the landlord a reasonable period of time, up to a maximum of 18 months, to remedy the failure and during this period they will not face any sanctions for a breach of the condition unless the breach was deliberate. The landlord will also need to be seen to be actively taking steps to remedy the breach.

Fit and Proper person

The government will not require landlords or managers to provide a criminal record certificate to determine whether they are a fit and proper person. However, whilst a criminal record will not ultimately determine whether a person is fit and proper the Rogue Landlord Database will assist those making the decision to determine whether the landlord or manager is fit and proper.

Refuse disposal and storage facilities

The Government will also require a licence holder to comply with their local scheme (if any) for the provision of facilities for the proper disposal and storage of domestic refuse.

  • This means the numbers and use of receptacles for the storage and disposal of domestic waste generated from the HMO will be specified.
  • However, at the same time the Government accepts that the issue of rubbish collection is not within the control of the landlord and there is no intention to require landlords to perform functions which are the responsibility of the local waste authority.
  • Despite the above, securing suitable receptacles for disposal and storage of refuse is, in the Government’s opinion a fair and proper responsibility for the manager of an HMO with little or no cost to the license holder.

Comment

The extension of licensing will mean that a number of HMOs which are not currently licensable will soon need licences. The new minimum room size requirement will also take some living accommodation out of circulation altogether which may pose particular problems in high density housing areas such as London. It is still not entirely clear how the new regulations will operate and this will not be obvious until they are published in full.

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