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Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) England and Wales

Published Saturday, July 15, 2017

This Commons Library briefing paper sets out the legal framework in England and Wales for controlling standards in HMOs. It considers the powers available to local authorities to carry out enforcement work, and potential changes in the pipeline.

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Mandatory licensing

It has been mandatory for large houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) with three or more storeys and five or more occupants who do not form a single household, to be licensed in England and Wales since 6 April 2006. Conditions in smaller HMOs are subject to specific management regulations. Although there are varying views on the effectiveness of licensing, the Government believes that it has helped “tackle overcrowding, poor property management and the housing of illegal migrants”.

Extending mandatory licensing of HMOs in England

The private rented sector, of which HMOs form part, has undergone significant growth. It is now the second largest tenure in the UK and houses around 4.3 million households in England. It is suggested that licensing larger HMOs has led ‘rogue’ landlords to focus their operations on smaller HMOs. In October 2016 the Government announced an intention to extend mandatory licensing to smaller HMOs and also to introduce a minimum room size in these properties. The Welsh Government has already legislated to provide for all landlords to be registered, and for those carrying out certain letting functions to be licensed – this is in addition to the licensing provisions for HMOs.

New enforcement powers in England

In England, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 has given local authorities new enforcement powers in the form of civil penalties (up to £30,000) which can be imposed as an alternative to prosecuting landlords, and extended Rent Repayment Orders. The 2016 Act also provides for changes to the ‘fit and proper’ person test that applies to landlords of licensable HMOs. When the relevant provisions are in force, English local authorities will be able to use information held by the Tenancy Deposit Schemes to, amongst other things, identify non-licenced HMOs.

Controlling the growth of HMOs

Local authorities in England can seek to control growth in the number of HMOs in their areas by requiring planning applications for the conversion of residential properties into HMOs. The Welsh Government, with effect from 25 February 2016, has given planning authorities to power to require planning consent for new HMOs, and to consider the effects such dwellings might have on local areas, before deciding whether to approve planning permission or refuse it.



Commons Briefing papers SN00708

Author: Wendy Wilson

Topics: Housing, Housing standards, Private rented housing

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