Frequently Asked Questions on Homes in Multiple Occupation
Are you the landlord of a Home in Multiple Occupation (HMO)? You may have set out with the intention of purchasing a HMO or renovated a property to create a HMO or accidentally fallen into becoming a landlord of a HMO. Many landlords became accidental HMO owners after the change in HMO regulations that said the definition of HMOs was extended to property of less than three storeys high if the other conditions for a HMO were met. However, you ended up becoming a landlord of a HMO, in this blog we answer your frequently asked questions about Homes in Multiple Occupation.
Landlord and tenant solicitors
If you need legal advice about setting up or securing a licence for a home in multiple occupation or are experiencing licensing or tenant issues then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Am I a landlord of a Home in Multiple Occupation?
It is sometimes the case that a landlord doesn’t realise that they are the owner and landlord of a Home in Multiple Occupation. It is important to know if you are a landlord of a HMO because of the specific rules that apply to HMOs in comparison to the letting of other types of property on residential leases.
Your property is classed as a Home in Multiple Occupation if:
• At least three tenants live at the property and the tenants form more than one household and
• The tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with the other tenants.
It is important to know if your property is classed as a HMO or a ‘large Home in Multiple Occupation’ because of the different regulations and licensing requirements that apply.
What is a large Home in Multiple Occupation?
Your property is defined as a large HMO if:
• At least five tenants live at the property and they form more than one household and
• The tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants.What is classed as a household for the purposes of a HMO?
For the purposes of a Home in Multiple Occupation a household is either:
• A single person or
• Members of the same family who live together.
Family members are defined as:
• People who are married or in a civil partnership or living together as cohabitees. This includes people living together in same-sex relationships
• Relatives such as grandparents, parents, children, aunts or other extended family
• Half relatives such as step-parents and step-children and step-siblings.
Do I need to do right to rent checks for HMO tenancies?
When the government introduced right to rent checks back in 2016 as part of its Immigration hostile environment policy the law made it clear that right to rent checks apply to HMOs. That means you must carry out a right to rent Immigration check on any adult living in your HMO whose tenancy agreement began on or after the 1 February 2016.
Minimum room sizes and HMOs
Since 2018 there have been regulations in place about minimum sleeping room sizes for HMOs. Local authorities must impose minimum room sizes for any room used as sleeping accommodation in a HMO and the minimum nationwide standards are:
• A room of 4.64 m² for one child under ten years of age
• A room of 6.51 m² for one person over ten years of age
• A room of 10.22 m² for two people aged over ten years of age
• Any part of a room where the ceiling height is less than 1.5metres is not considered as usable floor space for measuring sleeping accommodation.
These minimum sleeping room sizes apply to HMO licence applications but local authorities can chose to apply larger room size standards. However, local authorities cannot set a standard room size that is lower than the national standard.
Do I need a licence for a HMO?
If your property falls within the definition of a large HMO (at least five tenants are living at the property, forming more than one household and sharing toilet or kitchen facilities) then you will need to apply for a HMO license from the local authority where your HMO is located.
Even if your property is rented out to less than five tenants from different families you may still need a HMO licence. That is because the rules on HMO licence requirements vary between local authorities so some say a licence is required and others do not do so. Therefore, you or your landlord and tenant solicitor should check with the specific local authority where the HMO is located to check whether you need a HMO licence.
What happens if you don’t licence a large HMO?
It is vital that you apply for a licence if you plan to let a large HMO as failure to obtain a licence could result in:
• Prosecution and fine by the local authority
• Your tenants requesting a rebate of rent because the property was unlicensed and is a large HMO.
How much is the fine for an unlicensed HMO?
If your HMO is unlicensed then you could get an unlimited fine for renting out the property. The extent of the fine will depend on the severity of the case. If you are at risk of prosecution for an unlicensed HMO it is best to take legal advice from a landlord and tenant solicitor.
Landlord and tenant solicitors
If you need legal advice about your Home in Multiple Occupation licence then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Rent rebates and unlicensed HMOs
If you operate an unlicensed HMO then in addition to being prosecuted and fined your tenant can ask a tribunal to order that you repay up to twelve months of rent for renting out an unlicensed HMO.
The tenant has to apply for the rent rebate order within a year. In addition, the local authority can apply to reclaim any housing benefit or universal credit that your tenants have claimed from government agencies to pay the rent for their room in the Home in Multiple Occupation.
Evicting a tenant from a HMO
You should not attempt to evict a tenant from a HMO without first taking legal advice from a landlord and tenant solicitor. Whilst some landlords assume that those living in HMOs have few rights, many HMO tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy. This type of tenancy gives a tenant of a Home in Multiple Occupation the same sort of tenancy rights as any other residential tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy.
If a HMO tenant has an assured shorthold tenant and the HMO is unlicensed (but the property should be licensed by the local authority) then a landlord cannot evict the tenant using a section 21 notice.
How long does a HMO licence last for?
A HMO licence usually lasts for five years. It is sensible to check with the relevant local authority as some councils have a policy of issuing licences for less than five years. If you are planning to keep your property as a HMO then you will need to apply for the renewal of the HMO licence prior to its expiry.
Does one HMO licence cover my HMO property portfolio?
Your HMO licence applies to an individual HMO property. Therefore, if you own more than one HMO you will need a Home in Multiple Occupation licence for each property. The local authority or authorities will charge a fee for each separate HMO licence.
What conditions are imposed on a HMO licence?
If you own a Home in Multiple Occupation and it is subject to a local authority licence then you must comply with the HMO licence conditions, such as:
• The HMO property must be suitable for the number of occupants. How many people can occupy a particular HMO will depends on its size
• The manager of the HMO must be a ‘fit and proper’ person. The manager of the HMO can be you or your agent. To be considered a ‘fit and proper’ person to be a manager of a HMO you must have no criminal record or must not have previously breached landlord laws
• Provide the local authority with an annual gas safety certificate, safety certificates for any electrical appliances if requested as well as install and maintain smoke alarms and other safety features and fire prevention measures.
In addition to the above conditions the local authority may require you to improve or upgrade the property before granting a HMO licence, for example, installing new fire safety doors or provision of fire blankets.
Failure to comply with the conditions of a Home in Multiple Occupation licence could result in the local authority revoking your HMO licence.
What can I do if I disagree with a HMO licence condition?
If you disagree with any HMO licence conditions that the local authority imposes on your HMO property then you can appeal against the licence condition to the First-Tier Tribunal.
It is best to take legal advice from a landlord and tenant solicitor before you launch an appeal. That is because an experienced landlord and tenant solicitor will want to check your prospects of successfully appealing the HMO licence condition. A pragmatic landlord and tenant solicitor will weigh up your likely appeal costs, the likelihood of a successful appeal against the cost and inconvenience to you of complying with the HMO licence conditions. Alternatively, a landlord and tenant solicitor will see if there is a compromise that could be acceptable to you and to the local authority.
Is my property a house share or HMO?
Sometimes landlords and tenants do not realise that a property let out to students or to young professionals is not classed by the local authority as a house share but a Home in Multiple Occupation. It is important to understand the difference. For example, student lets where each student has their own mini kitchen and own bathroom facilities may not be classed as a HMO. It would be if the students share the kitchen.
As each local authority has different rules about HMOs and different rental property licencing requirements it is as well to check with your local authority about whether your property is classed by them as a HMO (or would be after you complete your property renovations). This is because an early check with the local authority can save you money as you then know what safety standards you need to meet to ensure that your HMO secures the necessary licence from the local authority.
Landlord and tenant solicitors
If you need legal advice about your Home in Multiple Occupation or need advice on securing a licence or tenancy agreements then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
London based OTS Solicitors are recognised in two leading publications, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and The Legal 500.