A house in multiple occupation – HMO – is a property which is rented by three or more tenants who are not from the same household (i.e. a family).
Whether you’re a tenant looking to rent an HMO property, or a landlord hoping to let, it is important to know the rules surrounding safe habitation and the rights of the tenants and landlords to avoid future disputes.
A property is defined as a large HMO if it is rented to five or more tenants who form more than one household, if some or all tenants share bathroom or kitchen facilities and if at least one tenant pays rent.
Even if a property is smaller and rented to fewer people, landlords may still need a licence depending on the area. A license is valid for a maximum of 5 years and landlords will need a separate license for each HMO they run.
Certain properties and location are tailor-made for HMOs, for example a busy student area with large properties and tenants looking in larger groups.
HMO landlords must make sure:
- the house is suitable for the number of occupants, i.e. the property should have enough space for tenants to live comfortably and safely; this includes legislation on minimum room sizing and overcrowding
- the manager of the house – the landlord or an agent – is considered to be ‘fit and proper’; they have no criminal record or breach of landlord laws or code of practice
If a property is converted into an HMO, it will be visited by the local authority within five years and they will carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System risk assessment to identify any issues. Unacceptable issues include asbestos, carbon monoxide and radiation.
Landlords will need to send a valid gas safety certificate to their local authority each year. Working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed and safety certificates for electrical appliances should be available on request.
Another piece of legislation landlords must comply with is the Homes Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018, which came into force in March 2019.
All rented accommodation must be suitable for human habitation at the start of the tenancy and throughout the tenancy. It also provides tenants with greater powers to hold their landlord to account if their property is substandard or considered inhabitable; this includes damp, ventilation, overcrowding, drainage and water supply issues.
If the property contains any of the 29 hazards outlined in the HHSRS regulations it is likely to be deemed unfit for human habitation by the courts.
New legislation for 2020 also includes updated rules on energy efficiency standards. Since April 2018, HMO landlords have had to achieve a minimum rating of E on the Energy Performance Certificate for their HMOs for new tenancies or tenant renewals.
However in April 2020, this was extended to cover existing tenancies or tenancy renewals, meaning all rented properties will need to have an EPC rating of E, even where there has been no change of tenancy. HMOs with an EPC rating of F or G after April 1st 2020 will be classed as ‘un-rentable’.
For more information on applying for an HMO license, renting an HMO property and new legislation for 2020 check the government guidelines here.
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