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What is a HMO? Why do I need a licence? Read our frequently asked questions about houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
What is a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?
What is the purpose of a HMO?
Since the rented sector, and in particular the private rented sector, has expanded significantly over the last 20 years, governments have come to the view that tenants need additional rights and this is particularly the case where a property is let as an HMO.
The legislation also reflects the fact that HMOs are considerably more profitable to landlords than traditional single household lets and that standards can therefore be higher. There are detailed provisions with regard to fire, electrical and gas safety.
In addition, the fact that each HMO must be licensed means that local authorities can closely monitor the number of HMOs in their area which helps them assess local housing and transport needs.
What sort of properties are likely to be covered by the HMO Regulations?
What are the consequences if a landlord does not have a HMO Licence?
If a landlord has a licenced HMO, can the landlord be fined for any breaches of the regulations?
Yes, they can be fined if they fail to keep a property in a safe and habitable condition. If a property is not deemed to be safe e.g. not having relevant gas safety certificates, licences can be revoked and fines issued.
A landlord in Lincoln was fined £40,000 in a property where 7 tenants lived, which was deemed to be unsafe. In particular, there was no working fire alarm, the bedrooms did not have fire doors fitted, the stairs were not a safe means of emergency exit and the locking mechanisms on the internal bedroom doors also made escape potentially difficult.
What should a landlord do who believes he has a HMO which is unlicensed and/or which does not satisfy HMO conditions?
Any landlord in this position must take immediate action to obtain a licence from his Local Authority. This will necessitate the property physically complying with all safety requirements. Most of the safety requirements relate to fire, gas safety and minimum room size.
Each local authority has a housing service and it is frequently when tenants make a complaint to the housing service that enforcement against landlords is triggered. Landlords who comply with the regulations have nothing to fear from the legislation but landlords accidently caught out by the legislation do need to take action.
How long does a licence last and what does it cost?
Licence fees vary, and need renewing every 5 years. Landlords should carefully diarise renewal dates and ensure they are fully up to date with the regulations.It seems likely that over the next 5 years the regulations will be further tightened.
I am a landlord and enforcement action is being taken against me, what should I do?
You should contact Pinney Talfourd LLP. We have recent experience of acting for landlords in precisely this situation. Where it is a breach of the regulations, we are experienced in raising mitigating factors with Local Authorities with a view to agreeing a level of fine that is acceptable.
You can also read our Financial Penalties for HMOs Legal Hub article.
Find out more