Landlords still struggling to get mandatory HMO licenses
In September 2018, landlord Christina contacted the London Borough of Bexley to arrange a mandatory HMO licence for her two-storey house that she lets to six students. One year on, she’s only just received it.
On 1 October 2018, mandatory HMO licensing was extended to include a greater number of properties and removed the three-storey requirement. Many landlords, like Christina, tried to ensure their properties were licensed by the deadline, but found their local authorities to be unaware of or without the systems to handle the changes. While we’re not entirely sure if the reason for this is due to a lack of communication from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government or a failure by local authorities, it does mean that good landlords may have been unfairly penalised.
The issues around mandatory HMO licenses
At the time, we warned that there may be an expectation by landlords of a six-month grace period, as originally planned by the Government. As that wasn’t the case, we suggested that landlords struggling to get the mandatory licence still apply to fulfil their obligations. However, some landlords are still waiting for their licences. Others have had difficulties with room sizes, as the licensing conditions introduced minimum sizes dependant on the age and number of occupants.
Many local authorities require that a housing officer inspect the HMO, but some landlords have experienced even more difficulties when this happens. There have been complaints from NLA members that housing officers aren’t fully aware of the differences between bedsit HMOs and shared house HMOs, resulting in confusion over fire risk assessments. Some local authorities also have additional conditions that aren’t required nationally, so landlords have to be up to speed with the differences in each area they have property.
Worryingly, it is also likely that there are some landlords who are still unaware of the requirement for large HMOs to be licensed, or even of the legal definition of an HMO. If you’re one of these landlords, we suggest contacting your local authority as soon as possible and start the application process. It may not be easy to find the form on your council’s website and it may be time-consuming to complete, so set some time aside when you start the process.
For anyone buying an HMO, your mortgage lender is likely to include terms and conditions relating to the number of tenants permitted in HMOs, and will, as part of their due diligence, include a clause specifying that any licence must be applied for within a certain number of months.
Mandatory licence case study: Christina's story
Christina found the London Borough of Bexley’s website didn’t have any information on the new mandatory HMO regulations and emailed them in September 2018. She received an automated reply stating that they would contact her should they need further information.
Six months later, the website was still not up to date, so she emailed them again. This time she received a response but was unable to acknowledge this due to an injury. In April, a letter was sent to her rental property stating she had 28 days to apply for the licence. This was done in May, once Christina found the online application form.
In July 2019, Christina visited her property with a Property Licensing Officer (PLO), who later emailed her stating that the property was in order. In September, Christina had heard nothing further, so she emailed the PLO. She then received an invoice for £820, which came as a shock as she was expecting to pay £145 because her tenants were signatories on the same AST and the council’s website states that fees are paid per let.
Christina has also had difficulties with her mortgage broker – with whom she’s had a mortgage for 16 years. They’ve stated they won’t agree to the licence on a technicality that wasn’t communicated to Christina. So, she’s now looking to re-mortgage with a different lender, having had to wait for the licence to arrive.
Have you experienced similar issues to Christina, or are still waiting for your licence despite applying before the deadline? Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org