Government proposes extension of mandatory HMO licensing

Wednesday 19th October 2016

The Government has announced its intention to extend mandatory licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in England.
Under the current rules, mandatory licensing only applies to HMOs with three or more floors, excluding properties attached to businesses (unless they are part of a three-storey building).
Proposals outlined in a consultation document launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on October 18 state that the extension of mandatory HMO licensing would apply to all shared homes with five or more people from two or more households, as well as flats above and below shops and other business premises.
It has already been estimated that this extension would mean an additional 174,000 HMOs would need to be licensed.
The other key proposal in the consultation is to introduce a minimum space standard in HMOs. Under these rules, the minimum room size in an HMO would be 6.52 sq metres (roughly 70 sq ft) for one person and 10.23 sq metres (roughly 110 sq ft) for two people.
This standard is designed to make sure that, for example, landlords can not squeeze bunk beds into HMOs in order to fit more tenants in one room.
The ideas of a minimum space standard and extension of mandatory HMO licensing were first put forward last year in a similar Government consultation and subsequently supported by Housing Minister Gavin Barwell over the summer.
This year's consultation also includes proposals for:
- HMO landlords to provide decent storage and disposal of rubbish
- A tightening up of the ‘fit and proper person’ test for landlords, ensuring criminal record checks are carried out
- Revision of the current licensing rules for purpose-built student accommodation
On launching the consultation, Barwell made clear that the new proposals are designed to 'raise standards' and drive out 'rogue landlords'.
“In order to build a country that truly works for everyone we must ensure that everyone has somewhere safe and secure to live," he said.
“These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area."
The managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), David Cox, has responded to the proposals.
"Councils don’t have the resources to undertake effective enforcement action," he said. 
"Imposing more burdens on councils will not mean improved standards and better conditions for tenants – it will merely mean more laws that are not being enforced."
Cox added that introducing minimum room sizes in HMOs could have 'unintended consequences'.
“Some people are happy to take small rooms to keep their costs down. If these rooms are no longer available, where are people supposed to live?"
The DCLG consultation is open until December 13 and you can read it in full here

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