New guidance for HMO landlords revealed by government

Ahead of a major overhaul that will affect owners of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from 1 October this year, the government has published more detailed guidance which landlords should be aware of.

In a bid to prevent overcrowding and ensure landlords’ properties reach minimum standards, according to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, HMOs that are rented out to tenants across the country will be subject to new rules from October.

This week, the ministry published an updated set of guidance for landlords, and it is vital that HMO landlords who are not currently compliant take steps now to ensure that they will be by the time the new regulations come into effect.

HMOs often offer a cheaper form of accommodation for tenants due to their shared facilities, and they tend to be popular among students, young professionals and migrant workers looking for more affordable rent. While large HMOs (three or more storeys with five or more people making up two or more separate households) have required licences since 2006, the new rules will remove the minimum storey size – among other new amendments detailed below.

The first part of the changes – minimum room sizes

The Mandatory Conditions Regulations 2018, which amends Schedule 4 of the Housing Act 2004, brings in new conditions surrounding mandatory minimum sleeping room sizes.

The new minimum room sizes are:

  • 6.51 square metres for one person over 10 years of age
  • 10.22 square metres for two persons over 10 years of age
  • 4.64 square metres for one child under the age of 10 years

Rooms that do not meet the minimum requirement will not be allowed to be used as sleeping accommodation, and any part of the room where the height is less than 1.5 metres cannot be counted towards the minimum room size – so, for example, a loft room which is in the eaves must meet the minimum floor space requirements within the area that is at least 1.5 metres high from floor to ceiling.

Local authorities will be able to investigate and request details of an HMO’s room sizes, with the option to inspect a property if necessary. For those in breach of the regulations, fines of up to £30,000 can be issued to the landlord.

The second part – waste disposal

The amendment issued this week also covers waste disposal provision requirements specifically for HMOs. It is recognised that HMOs generate more waste than a standard family home due to the higher level of occupation, and all licensed HMOs will have to comply with any local authority scheme for the storage and disposal of rubbish awaiting collection from 1 October.

This part of the reform falls largely on the shoulders of local authorities, as they will be required to impose a mandatory condition concerning suitable refuse storage facilities for HMOs – and will then be responsible for enforcing this with landlords.

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