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Three weeks until new HMO rules come into play: are landlords ready?

From 1 October, licensing requirements for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are being extended, meaning tens of thousands more landlords now need to get a licence or face hefty fines.

Landlords have less than three weeks to make sure they’re compliant with the government’s latest rules surrounding HMOs, as changes to which HMOs fall under mandatory licensing requirements, as well as minimum room size requirements, are set to come into effect next month.

At present, mandatory licensing for HMOs only applies when a property has five or more people from at least two separate households living in it (where a ‘household’ is either a single person or members of one family), who all share facilities such as the toilet, bathroom or kitchen, and where the property is at least three storeys high.

The new rules

From 1 October, the minimum storey requirement is being removed – meaning the number of landlords who will be legally obliged to hold an HMO licence is expected to rise from around 60,000 to approximately 177,000 landlords. New minimum bedroom sizes will also come into play in HMOs in a bid to prevent overcrowding, and landlords may be asked to provide accurate floor plans when they apply for a licence, while councils will be entitled to come and inspect homes. There will also be new council refuse schemes for HMOs, which landlords will need to be aware of and adhere to when the rules take effect.

Even those landlords who already come under selective or additional licensing requirements may need to apply for a new mandatory licence, as well as ensure they comply with all the new requirements being brought in.

While the new rules are aiming to tackle the country’s slum landlords, some are unhappy that it appears to be penalising good landlords, as they are having to pay a licence fee, too. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), for example, believes many of the changes being brought in are “unnecessary”, and will also put a “huge strain” on local authorities.

No grace period

Non-compliance can lead to penalties of up £30,000, so landlords need to be careful that they are clued up on all the amendments now, as the government has confirmed that there will be no “grace period”. The local council will be able to issue guidance as well as a licence, and an application fee of around £500 may apply – which will cover the property for five years.

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