A new legal information series from the Landlord Law Blog
HMO stands for House in Multiple Occupation
There are several definitions of what an HMO is, and we will be looking at these in this series, but basically it is where several people who are not related or part of the same ‘family group’ share living accommodation.
For many years these properties have been treated differently by the authorities, with additional obligations being imposed on the landlord or property manager. This is largely because they are seen as being more dangerous, and their occupiers more at risk, than in other types of rented property.
In recent years the regulation has increased, and Local Authorities (who police the regulations) are starting to bring more prosecutions when landlords are found to be in breach.
So it is important to know whether YOUR property is an HMO property or not, and if it is, what your obligations are. Unfortunately this is easier said than done, as it is a complex area of law.
This short series is an attempt to highlight some of the more important points that all landlords and agents need to know about.
We start with some preliminary points:
1. An HMO is not a type of tenancy
Any type of tenancy can be an HMO. Or indeed an HMO may not be a tenancy at all, for example if it is a hostel or student halls of residence where the occupiers have licenses to occupy.
Whether a property is an HMO or not will depend upon whether it comes within the definition, rather than what type of occupation rights the occupiers have.
2. The fact that a property does not need an HMO license does not necessarily mean it is not an HMO
This is crucial. Many landlords seem to believe that just because they do not need to get an HMO license, their property is not an HMO.
This is COMPLETELY untrue. There are many thousands of properties which do not require a license – but which are still HMOs.
The reason why this is such an important point is that getting a license is not the only consequence of a property being an HMO. There are also the HMO Management regulations, which apply to ALL HMOs.
We will be looking at these later. But please, just because your Local Authority have said you do not need a license, do not assume that your property is not an HMO.
3. Taking in lodgers can create an HMO
This is little known. You are safe if you have up to two lodgers, but any more and you risk creating an HMO. The fact that they are lodgers and not tenants will not change this (see 1 above).
4. You must not ignore any warning letters regarding HMO issues
We will be discussing this more later in the series, but I just want to emphasise here that if you get any sort of warning letter or are contacted by your Local Authority about your property being an HMO – you must deal with it.
It is not going to go away.
Local Authorities may take a long time to deal with things, as they are largely understaffed with a heavy workload, but deal with it eventually they will.
It will usually be considerably cheaper for you to take proper advice and resolve any issues at an early stage, rather than leave it and then have to defend a prosecution.
About this series
We are going to start off by looking at what an HMO is. There are four separate types of HMO and we will be covering them all.
We will then take a look at the main legal obligations attached to HMOs – the management regulations and the issues connected with licensing.
Finally we will be looking at prosecutions and what you can do to help yourself.
Further HMO resources:
Advice: If you need some legal advice, for example if you are threatened with prosecution under the HMO regulations, you can use our ‘HMO Hotline’ telephone advice service. Click here to find out more.
Training: Easy Law Training has regular workshops on HMO Law & Practice. You can read about these >> here (you will need to scroll down the page).