Larger HMOs, such as bed-sits and shared houses, often have poorer conditions and management standards than other privately rented properties.
There is a significant risk of dying or being injured in a fire in such properties. The fatality rate in HMOs of three or more storeys is around four times higher than that for one or two storey HMOs.
As HMO’s 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
- High risk HMO’s can be identified and targeted for improvement.
Under the Housing Act 2004 there are three types of licensing:
- Mandatory (required by law) licensing of HMOs that are:
- Three or more storeys high; and
- Occupied by five or more persons; and
- Those persons form two or more households.
- Additional licensing of HMO’s:
- A discretionary power that Councils may decide to apply to a particular type of HMO, for example, two storey properties occupied by three or more students or asylum seekers.
- Selective licensing of other residential accommodation:
- Properties that are not subject to HMO licensing could be covered under a selective licensing scheme. This is where the Council may declare that certain areas, for example, where there is low demand for housing and/or anti-social behaviour, are appropriate for selective licensing. This licensing would cover all forms of private rented housing, including HMOs.
*Fit and proper person – In deciding whether someone if fit and proper the Council must take into account:
- Any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud.
- Whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues.
- Whether the person has previously managed HMO’s that have broken any approved code of practice.
Some HMO’s are exempt from licensing, these include:
- Buildings, or parts of buildings, occupied by no more than two households, each of which comprise a single person (that is, two person flat shares).
- Buildings occupied by a resident landlord with up to two tenants.
- Buildings managed or owned by a public body (such as the Police or the NHS) or an LHA or a Registered Social Landlord.
- Where the residential accommodation is ancillary to the principal use of the building, for example conference centres and such like.
- Student halls of residence, where the education establishment has signed up to an Approved Code of Practice.
- Buildings regulated otherwise than under the Act, such as Care Homes, Bail Hostels, etc.
- Buildings entirely occupied by freeholders or long leaseholders.