New Consultation: HMO and residential property licensing reforms

Article Posted -
18 Oct 2016

UPDATE: October 2017

DCLG has confirmed that it now hopes to introduce the required secondary legislation in April 2018, ahead of full implementation in October 2018. 


Almost a year ago now the Government published a technical discussion paper on extending the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMO). Since that process closed on 18th December 2015 we have been waiting patiently for the Government to publish their response.  

They have now launched a consultation that looks at the issues raised previously in more detail, and it seems clear that the Government is fully intent on implementing these proposals next year.


The Government plans to make the following changes through secondary legislation to increase the number of properties subject to mandatory licensing:

  • Remove the storey rule so all houses with 5 or more people from 2 or more households are in scope
  • Extend mandatory licensing to flats above and below business premises (regardless of storeys)
  • Set a minimum size of 6.52sq-m in line with existing overcrowding standard (Housing Act 1985) to close loophole created by upper-tier tribunal ruling

The order is proposed to come into force in 2017 (likely either April or October), and there would be a grace period of 6 months for landlords to apply for a license.

Non-compliant HMO landlords will find themselves at risk of penalties, including criminal prosecutions and the new civil penalties of up to £30,000 at the end of this grace period.

Those already subject to Additional Licensing will be able to passport in their license to the mandatory scheme free-of-charge during the grace period, but the same expiry date applies to the license.

National Minimum Room Size

Regulations will amend schedule 4 of the Housing Act 2004 by inserting a new compulsory condition in every licence granted in England (mandatory and additional) that local housing authorities are to disregard rooms of less than a prescribed size from being included as a room suitable for sleeping accommodation in a licence.

If such a room is let or occupied for sleeping the licensor would be in breach of the license and commit an offence, liable on conviction to an unlimited fine or civil penalty of up to £30,000.

The prescribed sizes are:

  • 6.52sq-m for one person
  • 10.23sq-m for two persons

This will not apply to temporary visitors, but children will be counted as full adults for this condition.

It is proposed that the mandatory condition will apply in HMO licenses issued for applications received after implementation

Other Measures

Some measures were brought up by respondents to the original technical consultation which the Government has deemed fit to consult on further.

  • Fit and proper person test: Should criminal record checks by made mandatory for licences, and if so should they be made through Disclosure Scotland or the DBS?
  • Waste: Should there be a mandatory condition relating to household refuse, and providing “adequate receptacles for the storage and disposal of normal household waste”? (If included it would “likely” apply to licences granted after implementation.)

NLA View

We welcome the government’s intention to bring a consistent approach to defining overcrowding in the private sector and believe that no one should have to live in unsafe accommodation.

However, rules already exist to deal with overcrowding and we’re worried that if proposals to introduce a minimum room size go ahead it would lead to a reduction in the availability of essential shared housing for all kinds of people, and inevitably leave some previously satisfied renters without a home.

We look forward to responding to the consultation and constructively engaging with the Government constructively to address our concerns.





Submitted by 043282 on 3 July 2018 - 11:26am

I have just been told by Worthing Council, that my basement bedroom in my four floor period house is not suitable for two people because it is too small. So we have a couple living here and they have the use of their own bathroom and kitchen a lounge and an outside garden patio. They love living here. So do the council expect me to evict them?

Submitted by 004280 on 14 December 2016 - 10:33am

With the kind help of Liz Mackenzie, our local NLA rep, fellow landlords, and local Councillor we were front page in the local paper.
This is going to be terrible for tenants and I echo the previous poster's view that this is about politician's trying to look good whilst making ordinary working people on low incomes suffer.

Submitted by 3302 on 23 October 2016 - 1:12pm

Since the false economy cost cutting government closed its own building agency DOE/PSA during the privatisation mania in the 80s and 90s, a very hard won government integration and harmonisation, which had taken place over many decades of buildling and planning regulations, standards, scopes and scales was simply thrown away.

Previously technically competent government professionals from the Building Research Establishment and the Fire Research Station (among many others) provided a logical technical check and balance against the inevitable overwhelming, ill considered, ill constructed, subjective social engineering of "look at me I want to make a name for myself at any cost " politicians and clerical statute drafting civil servants.

This tended to avoid the utter embarassment of new retrospective legislation and woefully inappropriate and mathematically incorrect and impractical scales and scopes that had in previous legisaltion been so effectively thrashed out over many years.

I think the fact the EHOs were put in charge of implementing that woeful new legislation without any professional construction training in their discipline was also very telling of just how much the government statute drafters and infrastructure planners were completely out of their depth.

At the time the Local Fire Brigades were also caught with their trousers down trying to train up on the radical new RORO regulations and had little real briefing from central government.

All in all,the Housing Act (among other related acts) was a piece of legislation and infrastructure that simply was not fit for purpose.

The amount of time it took the government to determine their truly hopeless anomalous HMO definition, including suffering the inevitable legal challenge to that definition is a clear indication (as if one were necessary) of just how the lack of central and local government fitness for purpose pervaded.

Looking at the locally produced "HMO Standards" so easily electronically shared by EHOs among the some 600 district councils one can see absolute scale and scope errors proliferated like a bad plajarism error in a University exam essay (The Housing Act with its miscellaneous section didn't help)

When it comes to room size issues there is now no practical consideration whatsoever for existing housing stocks as would have been previously made as a matter of course in producing this legislation, mitigating the retrospective issues by ,for example, applying the amenity aspects ONLY to new build, change of use, or *new licenses (*after a suitably long forward notice date). NOT TO EXISTING PROPERTIES

This is particularly absurd with the majority of three bedroom (and many two bedroom) houses in the UK having the inevitable box room which is/was NONETHELESS primarily designed and accepted for relevant government legislated approved building, planning and space standards as a bedroom.

This nationally normal housing proliferated, not just in the 18th and 19th century but through edwardian time, between the wars, in the post war housing boom and as has already been indicated by others on this blog, well into the current 80s 90s and 2000s.

Its about time the NLA actually challenged this upon proper technical and practical levels and stopped the government continuing to ride on a false wave of public credibility based upon the inevitable headline scandals of illegal landlords and subletters, who as we know tend to be unscrupulous foreign criminal elements breaking every civil and criminal law almost unabated.

A foot note to this and a real example of the absurd ablution scales in the “HMO standards” are of course the very dangerous legionella and drainage issues (including the impossible arising electrical pumping mascerator, fuseboard and water heating boiler capacity infrastructure requirements) created by the “washbasin in every room” nonsense, not to mention how numbers of occupants to different bathroom/WC/Shower configurations are not even made to a proper technical construction scale and scope algorithm.

There is a strategic issue here that should cross political party lines and should have actual committee VOTING participation of ethical landlord representation upon technically objective agenda - This can't happen too soon.

Submitted by 148166 on 23 October 2016 - 12:30pm

Just did a sweep round my houses to measure up all the single rooms. All bar one will be locked up after this mad scheme goes through. They are student houses and the single rooms are occupied by more-than-happy tenants that pay less than their housemates for the smaller rooms. I explained to them what is being proposed and they were aghast that perfectly good accommodation would effectively be outlawed !!

Nearly 20% of my rooms will be unavailable after this - and we allegedly have a housing crisis !!

Just madness ....

Submitted by 004280 on 22 October 2016 - 10:50am

Just to add to my above comment, if the NLA would like case studies of tenants who would be willing to talk on the record of how this legislation would impact them, I am sure we can get a number who will only be too glad to do so.

Submitted by 004280 on 22 October 2016 - 10:45am

Ah, have just commented on this in the forum. Minimum room sizes would be a disaster for many vulnerable tenants.

We have a number of houses where rooms slightly smaller than this are rented to tenants. However, all the houses have adequate bathrooms, large lounges, shared kitchens and gardens and are fully compliant with fire regs etc. Unlike the headline, 'landlords renting rabbit hutches for £1000 per month' - our rent for a small room, fully inclusive, is only £250 including bills and internet.

Many of our tenants were van sleepers or couch surfers before they found their current room and one has been in residence over 9 years, is quite happy and would be devastated to have to quit. Since there is nothing else around at this price, will have to go back to van sleeping.

I spoke to tenants about this consultation and asked them to write in.

In a perfect world, yes, it would be nice to have larger rooms, but people choose these rooms because it is what they can afford and it is a 1000 times better than what they had previously. I don'think the government realises quite how hard up some people are - particularly if the have CSA payments and debt.

Could I make a proposal? That the NLA talk to the government and suggest local authorities take a case by case decision on smaller room sizes, and where rooms do fall slightly below minimum size in otherwise suitable accommodation, they allow these rooms to be let at no higher than LHA single room rates. This would ensure that vulnerable tenants are made homeless by these proposals?

Submitted by 137339 on 22 October 2016 - 10:15am

The room size directive may apply to HMOs now, but I wonder how long it will be before this well-intentioned but not fully considered rule applies to all homes let?

We have four houses that are let to singles or couples. At least one of these properties has a bedroom that is smaller than the prescribed minimum size for a single room.

Small bedrooms are a "feature" of many of the sort of properties that end up in landlords' portfolios, especially those built in the 1980s and 1990s. (The property I am thinking of was built in 1983. I have another, built in 1994, that has a minute bedroom too, although the tenant uses this room as her home office.)

Will we be called upon to knock down walls in some of our properties, so reducing the number of bedrooms, just to meed a size requirement in future? How will that affect our rental returns and/or the properties we buy?

Submitted by 071796 on 21 October 2016 - 6:58pm

We manage an HMO in which two small rooms are provided for the use of one tenant. Each room is less than the proposed minimum 6.52 sq metres but one room is for sleeping in and the other room is for studying. Will tthis provision of a total area bigger than the minimum room size but provided by two separate rooms be acceptable under the new regulations?

Rose Burley

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