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“Room for Improvement”: New Regulations for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) seek to improve living conditions.

On 1St October 2018 new regulations came into force in England, bringing an estimated 175,000 previously unlicensed properties into the mandatory HMO licencing regime. The new regulations are contained in The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 and The Licencing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations.

The definition of a HMO for licencing purposes has widened with the removal of the requirement that the property must comprise three storeys. This means that any property occupied by 5 or more people, forming two or more separate households, will require a licence. There is an exception for a purpose built flat within a block comprising three or more self contained flats.

Perhaps the most contentious change is the introduction of new prescribed minimum room sizes. There is a prohibition on letting a room to a single person over ten years old, where the floor space is less than 6.51sqm and 10.22sqm for two persons over ten years old sharing a room. There is also a general prohibition on rooms less than 4.64sqm being used as sleeping accommodation. The HMO licence will also specify the maximum number of occupiers per room. While these minimum standards apply to licenced HMOs, many Local Authorities are applying the same standards to unlicensed HMOs as well.

There will also be an obligation to comply with a waste disposal scheme, ensuring a minimum number of bins and storage facilities at an HMO.

Existing HMO licences granted prior to 1st October 2018 will remain valid until expiration. On a renewal, the new regulations will apply. A Landlord with a licence granted after 1st October 2018 that is in breach of minimum room size standards will have 18 months to comply with the new regulations.

Letting a smaller room than the prescribed standard will be a breach of licence and Landlords could face an unlimited fine or civil penalty of up to £30,000. The impact of the new regulations is yet to be felt. With Landlords having to stop letting rooms that fall below the standard, there is a risk that reducing capacity could potentially affect rent rises.

If you own or are looking to buy an HMO property and would like to discuss this recently introduced legislation, please contact me, Julia Spies, or Neil Starr/Stephen Harris in our commercial property team.