Around a million renters living in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) will soon benefit from extra protection from rogue landlords being planned by the government.
HMOs, familiar to many students and flat sharers, are defined as properties shared by more than one unrelated persons. Typically these may be groups of friends such as is common for student accommodation or by strangers. Typically the house sharers will have their own bedrooms but will share communal areas such as bathrooms or kitchens.
Under the government’s proposals, tenants living in a HMO may soon benefit from:
- minimum room size standards (6.52m2 for one person rooms and 10.32m2 for double rooms)
- improved waste disposal facilities
- tackling rogue landlords through the introduction of a fit and proper person test for HMO landlords
Most significant is the proposed extension of the HMO licensing regime to include small HMOs which are currently exempt from mandatory licensing.
To date only large HMOs (3 stories or more) require mandatory licensing. The government seeks to extend HMO licensing to all properties irrespective of size and will push all HMOs with five occupants or more from two different households into the mandatory HMO licensing regime (with the exception of purpose built flats).
Due to the higher risk of poor quality housing in HMOs complex licensing regimes exist which may vary significantly across the UK. The move to license all HMOs will also help reduce such regional variation in licensing regimes and housing standards. These extra renter protections will enhance currently existing license checks for properties which currently include minimum building quality standards (gas/fire safety) and the payment of a license fee.
Currently landlords operating an unlicensed HMO which requires licensing are liable for criminal prosecution and may be subject to an unlimited fine. Under such circumstances tenants may apply for a Rent Repayment Order to receive refund of up to 12 months’ rent on the property.