A very good question!
Houses of Multiple Occupation have become an increasingly popular way of renting a property, due to the lack of affordable housing, particularly, but not exclusively, in city and large town areas.
HMO’s have been the mainstay of Student accommodation for many years and are particularly important now that University fees have risen sharply in recent years.
The UK Government has passed legislation for England regarding what constitutes a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) and the obligations required of landlords in connection with such properties. It is vital that landlords understand their legal obligations.
What defines a house as one in Multiple Occupation?
The legislation states that a property, house or flat is defined as a house of multiple occupation (HMO) when:
- the property is rented by at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (e.g. a family) but share facilities like the bathroom, kitchen or toilet.
Houses of multiple occupation then fall into 2 categories:
Unlicensed –generally speaking, any property of 2 floors or less let to 3 or more people not from 1 household. Whilst licensing is not mandatory, individual councils can still set their own requirements.
Licensed – Any property which has three or more floors and is occupied by five or more persons forming two or more households; must be licensed.
Licensing Arrangements of Houses in Multiple Occupation
Unfortunately, renting a property as an HMO has attracted some unscrupulous landlords, possibly, sometimes, due to the type of occupants, combined with the high rental yields.
In an attempt to control unscrupulous practices, properties that might tend to attract the more vulnerable tenants can be subject to specific licensing requirements under UK legislation; either mandatory and/ or additional licensing. Any landlord considering renting a property that may fall under the licensing arrangements needs to be very aware of his or her obligations, particularly in the case of additional licensing, where the local authority is able to set, or vary, its HMO rule requirements at will.
In the case of mandatory or additional licensing, Landlords can be hit with heavy fines for beaches of the licensing law. As always, “ignorantia juris non excusat”, which roughly translated means ignorance of the Law is no excuse……..or defense!!!