HMO licence – what are the rules?

by Ed Firmin

Posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 10:00

As a student landlord, you will most likely be in possession of an HMO – a house of multiple occupation. An HMO is defined as being a property that is rented out by at least three people that aren’t from one household but share facilities like the kitchen and bathroom.

What does more than one household mean? A group of people who are related (or share a connection, such as living together as a couple) and are living together are defined as one household. Therefore, students who aren’t related to each other but living in the same property will be from more than one household.

What does this mean for a landlord? Well, it may mean that you have to apply for an HMO licence. If you have a property which is three or more storeys and occupied by five or more persons from more than one household, but that share facilities such as a kitchen or bathroom, then a licence is mandatory. The licence is obtained from your local council, which, in this instance is Canterbury City Council.

If you let out a property that comes under that criteria but don’t have a licence, then you could be fined up to £20,000. Yikes! It’s important, therefore, that you ensure that you are fully regulated.

There’s a fee to pay (from £710 for an initial application), and you’ll need to provide:

• A fire safety risk assessment
• Landlord’s gas safety record
• Property plan
• Electrical condition report
• Sample tenancy agreement
• Portable appliance test certificate (optional)
• Fire alarm and equipment maintenance records (optional)

A licence lasts for five years.

If you are own an HMO with less than three storeys and less than five people, you don’t need a licence, but you must still comply with Management Regulations which means that you have to manage the property in a certain way, and actually is quite similar to licensed HMOs. Essentially, it means that you have to have an electrical safety certificate which is less than five years old, make arrangements for refuse collection and keep the garden tidy. If you fall foul of these rules, you could be fined.

Canterbury City Council also recommends that HMO and student landlords join the Homestamp housing accreditation scheme, a voluntary scheme which promotes good management practice and high standards. Canterbury universities recommend that students only rent from properties which are part of this scheme, and you have to be accredited to be advertised on their accommodation lists. Accredited landlords will also receive a discount on their HMO licence fees.

There’s a lot to take in, I can appreciate that, so if you would like some help, then please get in touch, and I can advise you on your HMO, whether you need a licence and how to apply.

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