Has your rental property now become an HMO under new guidelines?

New Government rules on Homes of Multiple Occupation, or HMOs, came into force on October 1st. They update the existing HMO licensing rules and mean that around an additional 160,000 rental properties could now require an HMO license.

The Government says the new rules, which mean that any home, regardless of its size, may need an HMO license if they house five people or more, from two or more families, or where amenities are shared. Previously, only properties that were three stories high were subject to local council inspections to grant a license.

New HMO licensing guidelines

Since October 1st, 2018, the UK Government’s new HMO licensing laws mean that you may need to apply for one if you rent a single property, flat or house to five or more people, who share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens and have two or more family names among them.

If you rent your property to a single family of five or more, your property may not be subject to this updated HMO licensing requirement, but it’s worth checking with your local authorities.

If your property does fall under the new rules, then you may be required to make some expensive changes to your property. They could include:

  • Making bedrooms larger, or changing the occupancy level of a bedroom to one, from two or more.
  • Complying with any locally updated waste disposal and rubbish storage rules, to ensure the HMO’s waste disposal provision is suitable for the occupation of five or more people.

It’s also important to be aware that now, any room under 4.64 metre square, can no longer be used as a bedroom or sleeping room.

The Government said these new rules have been imposed to ensure vulnerable people aren’t living in unfit accommodation, or being targeted by rogue landlords.

“Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live,” said UK Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler, when the new licensing changes were initially published in June. “Today’s new guidance for landlords will further protect private renters against bad and overcrowded conditions and poor management practice.”

It doesn’t affect every property

Of course, there are exemptions to the new legislation. And, if your property is too small to house five or more people, then it won’t apply there either. There are the exemptions to the new HMO licensing rules.

As well as those properties that are too small for five or more people, a flat, in a purpose-built block, comprising three or more flats is not subject to the new HMO licensing rules, even if there are five or more tenants living there, forming more than one family.

In addition, where a landlord already has an existing HMO license for their property, then there is no requirement to re-apply until the current license expires.

If you’re a landlord and you think your property could now be considered an HMO, according to the new rules, its essential that you get in touch with the relevant department at your local council.

If, after an inspection, it’s found that your property does require a license, but you need to undertake works to secure it, you should be given some time to make those changes. However, if you have no HMO license, where one is now required, you could be subject to a fine if it’s found you were aware that your property should be licensed, but you failed to comply and make the necessary arrangements.

In addition, landlords can also be fined for non-compliance of required works, to ensure the HMO meets all the new criteria.

Various estimates suggest that anywhere between 160,000 and 177,000 additional homes will require an HMO license. In many cases, the only cost will be for the license itself. In some, however, building works will be required. Or, landlords will need to home fewer tenants in their property, where it’s found to be lacking in basic amenities for the five or more people living there.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with the new legislation, just to be certain your property is fine as it is and doesn’t fall into the updated HMO category.