New licensing rules for the safety and health of tenants living within Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) will be in place from 1st October, impacting landlords’ businesses.
Private landlords who rent out homes with at least five tenants from a minimum of two separate households must have a licence. They must also meet the requirements of minimum room sizes and standards of health and safety. Licences are valid for five years, with separate licences required for each different HMO property.
It is believed that the new legislation will apply to between 160,000 and 180,000 properties, covering them under HMO licencing in England as the three-story regulation no longer applies.
The Government has implemented these new rules in an attempt to remove the worst practices in HMOs from rogue landlords, and eliminate overcrowding, unsafe conditions and the poorest living standards.
New mandatory rules on the minimum floor size requirements are part of the legislation and will be in force from October. Rooms in which an adult is sleeping must measure 70 sq ft (6.51sqm) as a minimum, with 110 sq ft (10.22sqm) as a minimum for two adults sharing a bedroom. Bedrooms which are occupied by children aged 10 years old or younger must measure 50 sq ft (4.64sqm) as a minimum. However, local authorities will also have the power to increase the minimum room size measurements if they choose to.
This occupancy test will mean that all homes in England containing at least five tenants from a minimum of two separate households will come under compulsory HMO licencing, regardless as to the number of storeys. Rented bungalows of one story will also fall under the new regulations if the tenants are on shared or separate agreements.
Landlords will also be made responsible for the rubbish disposal of their tenants under the new rules. The mandatory HMO licence now includes a requirement for landlords to follow the local council’s waste disposal and storage scheme. HMOs typically produce more rubbish than single family homes and the Government aims to ensure that all waste is disposed of correctly, avoiding any nuisance or health hazards to neighbours and tenants.
Local councils will differ in their individual stipulations, but the basic requirement is that each HMO has sufficient facilities for waste disposal internally and externally to the property, with recycling rules also adhered to. Bins must be stored correctly, without causing obstructions or becoming unsightly and diminishing the character of the community.
Following an extensive consultation period, the Government hopes to standardise HMO rules across councils in England. Helen Wheeler, the Housing Minister, explains that all residents deserve a safe and decent place to live, with guidance provided for landlords to help put an end to overcrowded, poor conditions and bad management practices. She goes on to claim that some rogue opportunist landlords exploit vulnerable tenants by letting overcrowded, sub-standard and possibly dangerous property. Ms Wheeler also believes that as HMOs increase, their effect can be felt across local communities in England, where inefficient rubbish storage can lead to health and safety issues and pest infestation.
HMO landlords must act swiftly to ensure they are operating within the law, especially as property inspections from the local authorities will come into effect.
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