Houses in Multiple Occupation (2018)
New regulations to bring mandatory licensing to all multi-occupied properties where there are five or more people, forming two or more separate households
The ‘three-storey rule’ has been removed
The requirement for it to cover three or more stories of a property has now been removed and it is estimated that this change will mean that some 177,000 rental properties will now be classed as HMOs.
The main changes are:
Altered definition of an HMO under the Housing Act 2004: for licensing purposes, from 1st October 2018, an HMO will be any property occupied by five or more people, forming two or more separate households.
This contrasts with the existing HMO definition which is a property occupied by 5 or more people, forming two or more separate households and comprising three or more storeys.
- If you already have an HMO license under the current definition, this will continue to be valid until the license expiration date (usually 5 years from date of issue). After the expiration you will need to apply for a new license as usual.
- If you currently let an HMO which didn’t previously require licensing but will do after the new order comes into effect 1 October 2018, then you will need to apply for a license through the local council.
- There is an important exception: if the property is in a purpose-built block of flats comprising 3 or more units.
Letting a licensable HMO without a license
When the law requires it could land the owner, agent or landlord with criminal prosecution and record, an unlimited fine, and an order to pay court costs and a victim surcharge.
Alternatively, the council could issue a civil penalty of up to £30,000 and a rent repayment order of up to 12 months’ rental income to the council, tenants or former tenants.
In breach of a license condition
Landlords will have to stop letting rooms that fall below the nationally prescribed standard. If they do not, then they will be in breach of licence condition and could be prosecuted by the local authority or alternatively receive a civil penalty under the new Housing and Planning Act 2016 provisions.
Frequently Asked Questions
At the very least you should ensure that there are an adequate means of escape in case of fire, and landlords of shared and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties will have additional obligations, both under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005), Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and the Housing Act 2004.
The legislation creates a legal entity known as the ‘responsible person’. So, if you are the owner, manager, agent or even own a flat within a block ‘you will need to check’ if YOU are the ‘responsible person’.
It has to be understood that the ‘responsible person’ has an absolute duty to comply with legislation.
Legislation requires that landlords carry out Fire Risk Assessments in all common areas of properties.
It’s a legal requirement for all blocks of flats (including houses converted into two or more flats) to have a Fire Risk Assessment of the communal areas only. This must include the front doors of individual flats.
The fire safety regulations for rented properties are laid out in various Acts and the requirements can vary from one country to another. Below are the key laws that you should be aware of and must follow as a landlord.
The Housing Act 2004, including the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988/1989, 1993 and 2010
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005)
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
Finally, if you have a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), even if it’s unlicensed, you will need to also follow additional, more specific fire safety rules and regulations. These include providing fire extinguishers and fire blankets. The precise requirements can vary from one local authority to another, so it’s best to check what they are with your local council housing department.
Landlord and tenant fire safety responsibilities:
The landlord or managing agent must ensure fire regulations are complied with on common staircases. The landlord is responsible for maintaining and checking shared fire safety equipment, such as a fire alarm system covering the whole building but the tenant bears some responsibility for ensuring that they stay in good working order. Tenants cannot remove the smoke detectors and must ensure that batteries are regularly replaced.
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
In general, the landlord must follow safety regulations; provide at least one approved smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel-burning appliance (for example a coal fire or wood-burning stove) and provide written information about how to test and maintain them. Test all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors at least once a month.
In a single household property, landlords are not required to provide fire extinguishers or fire blankets. However, landlords of HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupancy), are required to provide fire blankets in all kitchen areas and at least one fire extinguisher for each storey of the property.
No, there is no legal obligation (at the moment) for private landlords to carry out PAT on electrical appliances in their properties. However, the regulations are different for HMO landlords. In their case, annual PAT tests are compulsory for all electrical appliances.