Local authorities in England and Wales regularly enforce offences relating to HMOs and fines in excess of £740,000 have been issued to non-compliant landlords.
You must have a licence to operate a Large HMO and you may require one to let a property to tenants not from the same household.
As different local authorities apply their own legally-enforceable licence conditions it is imperative to be aware of every detail of your licence(s).
This article refers mainly to updated legislation regarding HMOs introduced in England and Wales on 1 October 2018.
Large House in Multiple Occupation
You must always have a licence for a large HMO.
If the property is rented to more than 4 people from more than one household, again sharing toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities and at least one tenant is paying rent (or it is paid on their behalf), it is a Large HMO.
NB: the element of HMO definition of a property with 3 floors/storeys or more is now no longer applicable. Any property defined as above is a Large HMO.
A House in Multiple Occupation is defined as a property rented by 3 people or more, not from the same household, sharing facilities like a kitchen, toilet or bathroom.
Some local authorities (councils) require you to have a licence to rent out your property as an HMO. You should check directly with the relevant council to make sure.
There is set of common conditions you must satisfy when applying for an HMO licence. Your local authority may advise you of additional conditions in your case, relating to fire safety, refuse disposal facilities, room sizes, etc.
The property must be suitable in size and provision of facilities for the number of occupants
You, as the manager (also called landlord) or your agent must pass the ‘fit and proper’ person test, eg no criminal record or breach of landlord laws or code of practice
You must install smoke alarms and ensure their maintenance
You must arrange a gas safety test every year and forward the certificate to your local authority.
It is good practice to have all electrical appliances PAT tested regularly, as the council may periodically request electrical safety requirements. This may, in any case, be a mandatory condition of your HMO licence, depending on your local authority.
The penalties for operating an unlicensed HMO are an unlimited fine and the repayment of up to 12 months’ rent to your tenants. You may also be banned for a set period of years from letting property. Non-payment of the fine can lead to a custodial sentence.
The penalties for non-compliance with the terms of your HMO licence or for providing unsafe or unsuitable accommodation can also attract an unlimited fine and a ban from letting property.
If you are accused of non-compliance in any area of landlord legislation or if you are renting unsuitable or unsafe accommodation, please contact our Head of Property Law, Scott Morris at Ardens Solicitors on E: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: (+44) (0) 207 100 7098