New Consultation: HMO and residential property licensing reforms
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.
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
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.)
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.