Talk of rules and regulations is always a bit of a bore. Even specialist HMO solicitors would agree that HMO regulations can be a bit turgid. However, for those landlords who own houses in multiple occupation you can't afford to ignore the rules and regulations on houses in multiple occupation. In this article senior HMO caseworker,Nollienne Alparaque looks at the key regulations affecting HMO owners.
Online London based house in multiple occupation solicitors
For landlord advice on buy to let property portfolios and houses in multiple occupation licencing issues call the landlord team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.
What is HMO regulation?
There are national and local HMO regulations. National HMO regulations apply if you own a ‘’large’’ house in multiple occupation, namely a property occupied by five or more people who are living in more than one household and the occupiers share kitchen, cooking or bathroom facilities. Local authorities can define what is classed as a HMO in their area and therefore also requires a licence and compliance with regulations.
HMO solicitors say that because of the different approach taken by local authorities to HMO licencing and regulation it is best to carefully check the licensing and regulation position rather than assume that because two properties are both in South London the same rules and regulations will apply. They won't necessarily if the HMOs are in different boroughs.
Does a HMO require a licence?
A HMO requires a licence from the local authority where the property is situated. Although there is a national definition of a large HMO, local authorities have different rules about what is classed as a small HMO that also requires a licence and compliance with HMO regulation. Ignorance of local laws and procedures is no defence.
What happens if you don’t have a HMO licence?
If your property is classed as a house in multiple occupation and you don’t have the necessary HMO licence then you risk prosecution. You may think that the risks of the local authority prosecuting you are minimal given the number of prosecutions per year but HMO solicitors say that it isn’t worth the risk, especially when:
- Tenants and occupiers of HMOs are increasingly sophisticated and aware of their rights and can ask the local authority if the HMO is licensed. The enquiry can be in a tenant’s best interests as if the HMO is unlicenced the tenant or occupier could apply for a rent repayment order
- If the HMO is unlicensed, other shortcuts may have been taken. For example, not complying with fire, gas or electricity safety standards or not carrying out required repairs. That increases the risks and penalties a HMO owner faces if things go wrong.
Whilst many see health and safety regulations as protection for the occupiers of the HMO it is best practice to think of the regulations as affording HMO owners a measure of protection as well as if things do go wrong or an accident occurs you can point to the fact that you had the required HMO licence and had complied with all the other regulations, for example, smoke alarms or gas safety checks.
As HMO solicitors we are sometimes asked if HMO licence rules and regulations are different if you aren’t a professional full-HMO owner or you specialise in HMOs let to students or to overseas workers. However, the rules and regulations are the same, whatever the number of HMOs that you own or your specialist HMO market.
Penalties for breaching HMO regulations
Local authorities not only have the authority to grant or refuse a house in multiple occupation licence but they can also prosecute a HMO owner for:
- Failure to licence a HMO or
- Failure to comply with the specified HMO management regulations.
Non-compliance with the HMO regulations can lead to:
- Criminal prosecution – if you are successfully prosecuted this will leads to a criminal conviction and means you will find it harder to secure another HMO licence. A criminal conviction can lead to an unlimited fine imposed by the criminal court
- A large fine – potentially the fine could wipe out your HMO profit so non-compliance with the regulations could be financially damaging. Civil proceedings resulting in a fine could amount to a maximum financial penalty of £30,000
- Rent repayment order -the local authority or the occupiers of the house in multiple occupation could apply to a tribunal for rent repayment orders. The tribunal can order a rent repayment order amounting to a maximum repayment of twelve months rent.
HMO solicitors say that prosecution isn’t just about the conviction and financial penalties and impact on the profitability of your HMO but also on your company and personal reputation.
How can the HMO lawyers at OTS Solicitors help you?
We all know that HMO ownership can be a highly profitable business venture and one of the more lucrative ways of securing a good rental return from London property. However, HMO owners, whether they are an individuals or companies, need fast specialist HMO legal advice on a range of issues, such as:
- HMO licensing and first licence applications
- HMO regulations
- General landlord and rental property regulations
- Local authority investigations into HMO licencing issues
- Steps to take if served with a notice to refuse you a HMO licence
- Action required if served with a notice to revoke or vary your HMO licence
- Appeal options against the refusal, revocation or variation of your HMO licence
- Civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions
- Representation in rent repayment order tribunal cases
- HMO management and banning orders.
Our expert HMO solicitors and landlord lawyers understand the particular issues that can create problems for HMO owners, landlords, property managers and lettings agents. We also understand the need for speedy, cost effective legal advice to minimise the reputational and financial loss that can be incurred if you encounter problems with HMO regulation.
Online and London based landlord and tenant and HMO solicitors
For HMO and landlord advice on house in multiple occupation licencing and regulation issues and your best options if you are facing HMO licensing, regulation or rent repayment order proceedings call the HMO and landlord team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.