LANDLORDS of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) who were previously not required to licence their properties may have to do so when the law changes in October.
Strict new rules introduced by the government means that smaller properties being used as HMOs will now have to be registered with the local Council, otherwise the landlord could face hefty fines.
The changes and the way they will be administered will be reported to a meeting of the Council’s Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee on 4th July.
Currently, properties must be licensed as HMOs if they are three or more storeys and are occupied by five or more people forming two or more households sharing amenities.
The new rules coming into force on 1st October state that a licence is required for HMOs of any size where there are five or more people forming two or more households where facilities are shared – thereby removing the three-storey criteria.
Housing officers estimate this could increase the number of HMOs requiring a licence in Reading from the current figure of 1,000 to around 4,000.
The new rules also state that a purpose built flat occupied by five or more people in a block comprising up to two flats will be licensable. A purpose built flat occupied by five or more people in a block comprising three or more flats will not need a licence.
This means mandatory licensing will apply to purpose-built flats such as those above shops but will not apply to purpose built blocks of flats such as tower blocks.
Extending the licensing scheme will enable the Council to:
· Check whether the landlord is a fit and proper person to manage the property
· Assess the standard of management of the property, including fire safety
· Carry out physical inspections of the property
· Assess room sizes and facilities
· Set conditions to ensure tenants have the landlord’s details and know the maximum number of tenants allowed
The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licence) (England) Regulations 2018 also introduces minimum room size standards for HMOs from 1st October to standardise the rules across the country.
The new national room size standards for shared accommodation are a minimum floor area of 6.51m2 for a single person aged 10 years or over and 10.22m2 for two occupiers. The minimum floor area for under 10s is 4.64m2.
It is illegal to operate a licensable HMO without a licence and the Council will take enforcement action in these instances.
Fees are charged for new HMO licences which are usually valid for five years and these can be found on the Council website. Licence renewals are charged at a reduced rate.
Councillors will be asked to agree the implementation of the scheme and the proposed penalty fines at the meeting on 4th July and the application form for the new HMO licences will go online on the Council website later in the summer.
Cllr John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Housing, said:
“We welcome the extension of mandatory licensing which gives the Council a better chance of ensuring tenants are living in decent and safe properties.
“Private rented accommodation plays an important role in providing homes for people in Reading but there are a minority of landlords who provide poorly managed, substandard and unsafe homes which often affects the most vulnerable people in society.
“These new rules will bring HMOs under closer scrutiny by the Council which will allow officers to check appropriate arrangements are in place for the safety and comfort of residents.”
The full report which will go to HNL can be found at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/media/9015/Item-10/pdf/Item_10.pdf