Properties used as houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in England which house five people or more will require a license issued by the local authority from today (1 October 2018).

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 replaces the previous Order published in 2006. The introduction to the guidance document issued to local authorities notes that, “Some HMOs are occupied by the most vulnerable people in our society.

“These people live in properties that were not built for multiple occupation, and the risk of overcrowding and fire can be greater than with other types of accommodation. We want to support good private landlords who provide decent well-maintained homes and not impose unnecessary regulation.”

The private rented sector accounts for 4.5 million or 20% of households in England, and it is the second largest tenure after home ownership. HMOs are an important form of accommodation within the private rented sector because they are typically cheaper than other private rental options and often house vulnerable tenants. It is estimated that there are around 508,000 HMOs across England.

As well as extending the definition of an HMO, the new legislation specifically covers mandatory national minimum sleeping room sizes and waste disposal. Botn are seen as key elements in maintaining fire safety and hygiene standards.

Landlords of HMOs that fall under the new definition will be committing a criminal offence if they have failed to apply for a licence or a temporary exemption by today.

Mandatory conditions of HMP licensing include the provision of working smoke alarms.

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