Mandatory HMO licensing extension kicks off in October

Regulations laid in Parliament last week confirm that the long-awaited extension of Mandatory HMO Licensing will come into force from 1st October 2018 (subject to Parliamentary approval).

The regulations replace the previous prescribed description of HMO, removing the three-storey rule and bringing purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block into scope of mandatory licensing.

From 1st October, properties that meet all of the following criteria will be subject to mandatory licensing:
is occupied by five or more persons;

  • is occupied by persons living in two or more separate households; and
  • meets—
    • the standard test under section 254(2) of the Act;
    • the self-contained flat test under section 254(3) of the Act but is not a purpose-built flat situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats; or
    • the converted building test under section 254(4) of the Act.

Properties that fall into scope of the new definition, but are already licensed under a selective or additional scheme, will be passported over to the new scheme at no cost to the landlord.

It is estimated that by doing this, an additional 177,000 HMOs (on top of the existing 60,000) will become subject to mandatory licensing in England. Around 20,000 HMOs already licensed under selective or additional licensing schemes will be passported into mandatory licensing automatically

"Grace" Period

The Government previously announced in its response to the HMO licensing consultation in January that it intends to implement these changes in two phases, with a 6 month grace period where licences will be required but enforcement action will not be taken.

However, the NLA reached out to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) for clarification as the regulations do not introduce the grace period it had previously proposed.

In its response, MHCLG confirmed that the original plan to commence regulations with a formal 6 month grace period for enforcement action has changed. With the regulations just laid (subject to Parliamentary approval), landlords with properties that meet the new criteria for mandatory HMO licensing will be required to submit an application by 1st October 2018, representing a 7 month informal period to become compliant.

Landlords who fail apply for required licences by 1st October 2018 will be committing a criminal offence from that date. Licences granted under the new definition will not come into force before 1st October.

Local authorities have a duty to raise awareness of the changes and to accept applications in advance of this date. To aid in this the Government will soon be publishing guidance, targeted at local authorities but also useful for landlords, to help everyone understand the new requirements.

Room Sizes & Waste

As per the Government’s consultation response, further regulations setting out new mandatory licence conditions are also expected.

The Government will introduce mandatory conditions in licences stipulating the minimum sizes of rooms that may be used for sleeping accommodation in licensed HMOs.

A mandatory condition will also be introduced to require the licence holder to comply with their local authority scheme (if any) for the provision of facilities for the proper disposal and storage of domestic refuse.

Read more details of these new proposed conditions here.

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