Government to expand the mandatory HMO licensing scheme in 2017

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 - DCLG

The government have announced their intention to expand the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, with the changes due to come into force in 2017, subject to parliamentary approval. Across England it is anticipated that an extra 174,000 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) will need to be licensed.

In a statement issued on 18 October 2016, Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said:

In order to build a country that truly works for everyone we must ensure that everyone has somewhere safe and secure to live. These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area.

By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules out of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need“.

This latest announcement follows a government HMO licensing consultation that took place in late 2015 (read here). The government received 449 responses from a range of organisations and individuals across the sector. The key headline results include:

  • 78% of respondents said that HMO licensing should be extended to all relevant HMOs regardless of the number of storeys.
  • 45% of respondents thought that five people in at least two households was the correct threshold for mandatory HMO licensing, although there was little consistency amongst those who thought it should be changed.
  • 81% of respondents thought that certain converted blocks of flats (section 257 HMOs) should be bought within the scope of mandatory HMO licensing.
  • 79% of respondents thought that mandatory licensing should be extended to include all flats in multiple occupation above or below business premises.
  • 79% of respondents supported introduction of a new national minimum room size for bedrooms in HMOs.

Having reflected on the feedback, the government have today published a series of announcements.

In relation to mandatory HMO licensing, it is the government’s intention to remove the three storey requirement whilst retaining the threshold at a minimum of five people. In future, licensing will extend to all HMOs occupied by five or more people in two or more households, throughout England.

Whilst the same licensing rules will be applied to multiple occupied flats in converted buildings, London Property Licensing understands that certain flats in purpose built blocks and other buildings where there are three or more purpose built flats in a mixed commercial / residential building will be exempt from the new licensing rules.

A new minimum HMO room size is proposed for properties that have been licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme – 6.52m2 for a single room and 10.23m2 for a double room. Councils will retain the ability to specify larger sizes where it is deemed appropriate. Certain providers of hostels and temporary emergency accommodation would be exempt.

The government have confirmed it is not their intention to extend mandatory HMO licensing to so called ‘section 257 HMOs’, otherwise known as certain converted blocks of flats, in line with our London Property Licensing consultation submission (read here).

Councils will still retain the ability to introduce additional and selective licensing schemes if the satisfy the criteria for doing so.

The government have indicated that the proposals will be implemented in 2017 with a grace period of six months for all landlords to comply.

A further government consultation is now underway to fine tune the proposals before they become law. The consultation paper is available here and consultation responses must be submitted by 13 December 2016.

The consultation paper also seeks views on a range of other proposals, including:

  • Whether criminal record checks should be a mandatory requirement to accompany all new licence applications;
  • New mandatory licence conditions relating to the disposal of household waste; and
  • An automatic 50% licence fee discount for certain purpose built student accommodation blocks.

Advice and guidance on the new licensing requirements and the implications for landlords and letting agents can be obtained by contacting London Property Licensing.