12 November 2019
Secure a HMO licence or risk £30,000 fine
Last year, regulation changes came into force in relation to a house in multiple occupation (hmo). if a landlord breaches these new requirements, a criminal prosecution may follow. james constable, associate in the dispute resolution team, advises on how landlords can stay on the right side of the law.
Since 1 October 2018, a property is now regarded as an HMO if it has at least five occupants (including children) forming two or more separate households which share basic amenities, such as a toilet, bathroom and kitchen. Previously, the property had to be three stories to be classified as an HMO but this is no longer the case. There are also strict minimum requirements on floor space with each local housing authority having its own regulations. It is estimated that these significant changes will have created 177,000 new HMOs which landlords need to secure a licence for, as soon as possible.
If you don’t have a licence, the local housing authority can either impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000 or prosecute in the criminal courts. If convicted, a fine of up to £20,000 can be imposed and proceeds of crime application (POCA) may follow in order to seize rent and associated income from the landlord.
There can be a very narrow defence of reasonable excuse of not having a licence, but the facts of each case will be different, and it is advised to seek legal advice as early as possible in the proceedings.