Mandatory HMO licensing scheme to be extended on 1 October 2018
New regulations have been published that will expand the mandatory HMO licensing scheme across England on 1 October 2018.
The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description)(England) Order 2018 was laid before Parliament on 23 February 2018 and comes into force on 1 October 2018.
Under the new arrangements, all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) occupied by five or more people will need to be licensed throughout England. The licensing scheme was previously restricted to properties that comprised three or more storeys. The government estimate an extra 160,000+ properties will need to be licensed.
While licensing will extend to most HMOs occupied by five or more people, the government have decided to exclude multi-occupied purpose built flats in blocks comprising three or more self-contained flats.
As an example, a tenth floor flat occupied by five or more friends will not need a mandatory HMO licence. If the same people lived in a ground floor flat in a converted building, a licence would be required. Purpose built flats could still fall within the remit of local authority additional or selective licensing schemes.
Proposal for six-month grace period has been dropped
As previously reported by London Property Licensing (read here), the government had indicated they would allow a six month grace period for landlords to apply for a licence before any enforcement sanctions were imposed.
It seems this option is no longer being pursued and that all licence applications will need to be submitted before the Order comes into force on 1 October 2018.
The pressure will now be on local authorities to updates their websites, raise awareness amongst landlords and ensure their systems and procedures are ready to handle all the applications expected.
If a valid application is submitted by 1 October 2018, landlords and agents will be compliant with the licensing scheme.
Enforcement sanctions looming for landlords and agents that miss the deadline
Fail to apply for a licence by 1 October 2018 and the repercussions could be harsh. The landlord and letting agent risk being prosecuted and given a hefty fine.
Alternatively, the council can issue a civil penalty of up to £30,000 for not having the correct licence and the landlord can be subject to a Rent Repayment Order and may have to repay up to 12 months rent.
Whilst the property is unlicensed, the landlord can’t use a Notice of Seeking Possession under Section 21 Housing Act 1988 to evict the tenants.
No update on new minimum room sizes
To date, there is no further update on the government’s proposals to introduce new minimum room sizes for all bedrooms within licensed HMOs or the proposal for a new waste management licence condition.
It is possible these further changes could be implemented on 1 October 2018, subject to Parliamentary approval.
London Property Licensing has published a free guide to mandatory HMO licensing which is available here.
The new Prescribed Descriptions Order can be accessed here.
A licence application handling service is also available in the London area, details here.
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