What do the new HMO regulations mean for landlords?

Last year the UK government announced plans to review regulations surrounding Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) although this was delayed by the snap general election. However, on 23 February 2018 the government announced details of changes to HMO regulations which will come into effect on 1 October 2018. While many of the changes are subtle they will force many landlords to apply for HMO licences and potentially fund changes to their properties.

Summary of HMO regulatory changes

As of 1 October 2018 the following changes to HMO regulations will apply:

Definition of an HMO property

At this moment in time an HMO property is defined as one which is occupied by five or more people, forming two or more separate households and comprises of three or more stories. The new definition is much simpler and any property occupied by five or more people forming two or more separate households will require an HMO licence.

Floor space requirements

While the vast majority of HMO landlords offer floor space which is more than adequate for single rooms and those sharing, there have been many cases of bad practice highlighted in the press. As a consequence, the new guidelines will recommend floor space of no less than 6.51 m² for a single tenant and 10.22 m² for two adults sharing. At this moment in time it is unclear when this guidance will become law.

Properties previously exempt from an HMO licence

There are many HMO properties in the UK which do not currently require a licence under the old HMO definition. Those that fall under the criteria for the new HMO definition from 1 October 2018 will need to apply for a licence from their local authority. It is also worth remembering that a licence is required for each individual property as opposed to individual landlords.

Impact on landlords

Until the new regulations are brought onto the statute books nothing is actually set in stone but the indications are that around 170,000 additional properties will be impacted by the new HMO regulations. This is on top of the existing 60,000 properties already under licence. Those who fail to comply with the new regulations will be open to potentially unlimited fines.

Additional funding requirements

There is some debate at this moment in time as to whether the minimum room requirements will be guidance or firm regulations when the changes come in on 1 October 2018. It is likely that many landlords will at some point need to make changes to the layout of their HMO properties. Depending upon the type of property this could have a serious impact upon long-term rental income as well as requiring additional capital to fund changes.

Planning for the future

At this moment in time the HMO changes will only relate to England although it is highly likely that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will adopt their own form of regulatory changes in due course. We know for a fact that the definition of HMOs which require a licence will change and at some point the minimum room size guidance will become law. There is still plenty of time for HMO landlords to review their own individual investments and consider how the changes will impact their assets and their income.

We will continue to monitor changes to the HMO regulations and report any new developments as soon as possible.

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