Landlords: are you ready for new HMO rules?

Landlord Advice

8 June 2018

According to research by RLA PEARL, 16% of landlords currently rent houses in multiple occupation (HMO) properties. And from 1 October 2018, the government will be rolling out new regulations for these across England.

It's always a good idea to be prepared for any legislative changes, so there are a few quick checks you can do to make sure your rental will meet the new codes.

The extension of mandatory licensing

The new regulation simply broadens the definition of which HMOs need a licence, by including properties that have either one or two storeys. It's estimated that this will affect 177,000 properties across England. You will need to apply for an HMO licence if the property is occupied by five or more people, or is home to more than two households.

A household includes anyone who is related or in a relationship with each other. So, three friends living together would constitute three households, a couple and a flatmate would be two and a family unit (parents and kids) would only be one.

What do you need to do?

Unfortunately, there's no grace period – landlords will need to apply for their mandatory HMO licence in time for the 1 October deadline. These licences are handled by your local authority, rather than central government, so it's worth applying early to ensure your application is received on time.

Licences are valid for five years, and you'll need to renew it before it expires. Each HMO in your portfolio will need its own licence, so if you own multiple HMO properties you'll need to go through the process a few times.

Minimum bedroom sizes

Another big change coming in October is the introduction of minimum bedroom sizes for HMOs. This will be decided at a local authority level, but most are likely to follow the national minimum standards:

  • 6.51 square metres for one person older than 10 years of age
  • 10.22 square metres for two people older than 10 years of age
  • 4.64 square metres for a child aged 10 years or younger

Councils will be able to apply stricter regulations if they feel that there is an overcrowding issue in their area. There's a fine of up to £30,000 for noncompliant landlords, so it's worth digging out the tape measure.

What do you need to do?

Get in touch with your local authority to find out whether they're using the benchmark figures or applying stricter regulations, and then double check that the rooms in your home are large enough for the people living in them. You may need to re-evaluate the number of people you let to, if the rooms are too small for the number of residents.

Unlike licensing, there is a bit of leeway with this new regulation. Existing HMO licence holders will have 18 months to make any necessary changes before reapplying for their licence.