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Social Housing Speed Read – Houses in Multiple Occupation

Here we look at the proposed changes to the mandatory licensing system for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

The Government has consulted on the changes it proposes to make, and intends to extend mandatory licensing to different types of properties.

Changes to the HMO licensing system

In October this year, the Department for Communities and Local Government published “Extending mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation”.

The Government has acknowledged the rapid growth in the private rented sector, and has expressed concern at a small minority of rogue landlords who poorly manage their HMOs.

The risks of poor management include overcrowding, inadequate health and safety standards and a failure to deal with tenants’ anti-social behaviour.

The Government wants to promote better standards in HMO properties by extending mandatory licensing to more types of property. It proposes to do this by:

  1. Ensuring that all HMOs with 5 or more people from more than one household are included within mandatory licensing;
  2. Including flats above and below business premises within mandatory licensing;
  3. Clarifying that the minimum room size for sleeping accommodation (6.5m²) applies to all licensable HMOs.

Proposal 3. relates to the Upper Tribunal decision in Clark v Manchester City Council, where the Tribunal held that the minimum size requirements used by the Council when licensing HMOs were to be used as guidelines, rather than being obligatory. The Government wants to make the minimum space requirements compulsory, to tackle overcrowding.

The Government also considered the mandatory licensing of “poorly converted blocks of flats” – a proposal widely supported at the consultation stage – however decided against this, stating that licensing is a tool with which to tackle unsafe and poor housing conditions.

Whilst the proposals have a health and safety focus, the Government wants to have mandatory HMO licences for a wider range of affordable rented accommodation which, in practice, can be exploitative of tenants.

The Government proposes to bring these changes into force by April 2017, with a 6 month grace period for landlords to comply.

What will this mean for Registered Providers?

Registered providers are exempt from the HMO provisions of the Housing Act 2004, and this is not expected to change. However, because the Local Housing Allowance restrictions will be in force by April 2018, we are likely to see an increased use of HMOs by the under-35s, by both the private sector and registered providers, some of whom are considering new models of accommodation.

Whilst registered providers will not need to apply for mandatory HMO licences, the issues that mandatory licensing is designed to tackle are still relevant, for example Health and Safety, Fire Risk, and increased anti social behaviour, meaning that effective (and often intensive) management of HMOs is ever-important.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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