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The government will implement new regulations for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from 1 October 2018 after a mandatory HMO licensing extension was confirmed in Parliament last week, which spells big changes for some landlords.

It has been more than two years since the issue of mandatory licensing for HMO properties was discussed by the government, and a date has now been set for the new rules to come into effect. It will mean that mandatory conditions and licences will apply to all HMOs that fall under the stated criteria, and the landlords who own them, further tightening up the market and minimising the number of unfit properties and rogue landlords in operation.

What are the licensing changes?

The new mandatory licensing policy from October 2018 will apply to HMOs that are occupied by five or more people, comprising individuals living in two or more separate households – frequently but not exclusive to groups of cohabiting adults – regardless of the number of storeys. The property is also classed as an HMO if it is not made up of self-contained flats, the people who live there treat it as their main residence, and two or more of the occupying households share one or more of the basic amenities. More detailed information can be found here.

Owners of properties that fall under the above criteria will need to obtain licences when the new regulations take effect, which is expected to bring an additional 177,000 HMOs under the mandatory licensing scheme in England. Where selective or additional schemes are already in place for landlords, which accounts for about 20,000 HMOs, the new scheme will replace existing licences.

Current licensing rules already apply to large HMOs, where five or more people rent rooms in the property from more than one household, if the building is more than three storeys high.

What if landlords don’t comply?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed that landlords are legally required to submit their applications for mandatory HMO licensing by the deadline of 1 October 2018, with no allowance for a grace period after this date. The government is expected to publish guidance in the coming months on the issue to make local authorities aware of the obligation, but landlords who fail to apply for the correct licence will be in breach of the law.

Will there be any other changes?

Implementing a minimum room size rule has been part of the talks, and more specific details on this are still to be announced. The minimum sizes will apply to rooms that are slept in, and local authorities will be required to enforce this by specifying appropriate rooms in HMOs, and the number of people allowed to occupy them. If the conditions are breached, the local authority will issue a warning to the landlord to remedy the situation, after which point legal action can be taken.

Another condition of the licences will relate to refuse disposal and storage facilities, with minimum numbers of bins and storage facilities for waste expected to be set out by the government.

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