In our previous post we mentioned the mandatory national minimum sleeping room sizes. From 1 October 2018 local authorities will need to impose conditions as to the minimum room sizes which may be occupied as sleeping accommodation in the HMO. A room smaller than the specified size must not be used as sleeping accommodation. The purpose of this condition is to reduce overcrowding in smaller HMOs.
The minimum room sizes are:
- 6.51 m2 for one person over 10 years of age
- 10.22 m2 for two persons over 10 years of age
- 4.64 m2 for one child under the age of 10 years
Any room that is less than 4.64 m2 may not be used as sleeping accommodation and landlords are required to notify the local authority of any room in the HMO property which has a floor area of less than 4.64 m2. Furthermore, any part of a room in which the ceiling height is less than 1.5m cannot be counted towards the minimum room size calculation. Finally, local authorities will impose conditions specifying the maximum number of persons over 10 years of age and/or persons under 10 years of age who may occupy HMO rooms for sleeping accommodation.
It is important to note that these are minimum room sizes and are not intended to be optimal room sizes. This means that while local authorities have discretion when setting the room size standards, they are not permitted to set lower standards than those listed above.
It will be for local authorities to set these standards as they see fit. Local authorities will no doubt need to take resources into account when policing these standards, but they will require details of the room sizes in any HMO application. Where landlords breach these conditions, they can face criminal prosecution with an unlimited fine or instead be given a civil penalty up to a maximum of £30,000.
These conditions will not apply to those temporarily occupying a room, such as a visitor. However, if a tenant, for example, moves a visitor into a room permanently the landlord will be required to ensure any minimum room size condition is met where they are aware of the additional persons occupation. If the landlord is unware of a person being moved in then the local authority can give them a grace period of up to 18 months to deal with the problem.
A landlord will only commit an offence if, without reasonable excuse, they breach the licence by:
- Knowingly permitting the HMO to be occupied by more persons or households than is authorised by the licence;
- Failing to comply with a condition of the licence such as a prohibition against occupation as sleeping accommodation.
It is important for landlords to ensure that they meet these minimum room size conditions when applying for a HMO licence. Application are a timely and costly exercise so to make the process smooth and painless preparatory work is certainly a positive step in the right direction.