Licence - homes in multiple occupancy
The Housing Act 2004 Part 2 introduces Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
What is a HMO?
A building or part of a building is an HMO if it meets one of the following tests:
The standard test
Any building in which two or more families/individuals share basic amenities - amenities are bathroom, toilet or kitchen facilities.
The self-contained flat test
Any flat in which two or more families/individuals share basic amenities - amenities are bathroom, toilet or kitchen facilities.
The converted building test
Any converted building comprising one or more units of accommodation that are not self contained.
Certain converted blocks of flats - Section 257 HMOs
Any converted building comprising self-contained flats that do not meet the 1991 Building Regulation Standards and less than two thirds of the flats are owner-occupied.
Do all HMOs have to be licensed?
No. Under the Housing Act 2004 there are three types of licensing namely:
- Mandatory (has to be done) licensing of HMOs for properties that have 3 or more storeys (including habitable basements and attics) and 5 or more persons in more than one household.
- Additional licensing of other types of HMOs not covered by 1. For example, two storey HMOs occupied by three or more students or asylum seekers; or Section 257 Hmos.
- Selective licensing of other residential accommodation. For example, where there is low demand for housing and/or there are problems with anti-social behaviour.
Options 2 and 3 are discretionary, i.e. the Council may or may not choose to operate these licensing options. The Council is only operating option 1, mandatory licensing at the current time.
Why does the Government want HMOs to be licensed?
Larger HMOs, such as bedsits and shared houses, often have poorer physical and management standards than other privately rented properties. The people who live in HMOs are often amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society. As HMOs are the only housing option for many people, the Government recognises that it is vital that they are properly regulated.
Licensing is intended to make sure that:
- Landlords of HMOs are fit and proper people, or employ managers who are.
- Each HMO is suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence.
- The standard of management of the HMO is adequate. Managers are required to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006
- High risk HMOs can be identified and targeted for improvement.
Where landlords refuse to meet these criteria the Council can intervene and manage the property so that:
- Vulnerable tenants can be protected
- HMOs are not overcrowded
- Councils can identify and support landlords, especially with regeneration and tackling antisocial behaviour.
How to apply
Using the EUGO Portal you can:
Apply and pay online for an HMO licence
Renew and pay online for an HMO licence
The licence will last a maximum of 5 years. If the property is sold and/or the licence holder changes within the 5 years a new application will be required.
The licence costs £390 for a new application or £270 for renewal of an existing licence. The licence fee covers the administration costs of processing a licence application. The licence fee is required at the time of application.
Can the Council refuse to licence my property?
Yes, if the property does not meet the conditions required or the landlord or manager is not a 'fit and proper' person.
What will happen then?
If a landlord fails to bring an HMO up to standard, or fails to meet the 'fit and proper person' criteria, the Council can step in. They can request an Interim Management Order (IMO), which allows them to manage the property. The owner will still keep owner's rights. If the IMO expires (maximum 1 year) and there has been no improvement by the landlord, the Council can request a Final Management Order. This can last for up to five years and can be renewed.
Can I appeal?
You can appeal against a licence decision to the Residential Property Tribunal, normally within 28 days of any decision.
Appeals should be made to:
Residential Property Tribunal Service
1 Market Avenue
Tel: 01243 779394
Or 0845 1002627
Fax: 01243 779389
Temporary exemption from licensing
If a landlord or person in control of a property intends to stop operating it as an HMO or reduce the numbers of occupants and can give clear evidence of this, then he or she can apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice. This lasts for a maximum of three months and ensures that a property in the process of being converted from an HMO does not need to be licensed. If the situation is not resolved, then a second Temporary Exemption Notice can be issued. When this runs out the property must be licensed, become subject to an Interim Management Order or cease to be an HMO.
What are the penalties?
It is an offence if the landlord or person in control of the property:
- fails to apply for a licence for a licensable property; or
- allows a property to be occupied by more persons than are permitted under the licence.
A fine of up to £20,000 may be imposed. In addition, breaking any of the licence conditions can result in fines of up to £5,000.
Rent Repayment Orders
A tenant living in a property that should have been licensed, but was not, can apply to the Residential Property Tribunal to claim back any rent they have paid during the unlicensed period (up to a limit of 12 months). Councils can also reclaim any housing benefit that has been paid during the time the property was without a licence.
Further advice or information
Tonbridge & Malling Landlords Guide to the Management of Section 257 HMOs
Please contact the Private Sector Housing Team on 01732 876395 and ask to speak to someone about HMO licensing or SMS text message on 07781 482959