GOVERNMENT ISSUES GUIDANCE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF EXTENSION TO MANDATORY HMO LICENSING
After consultations in 2015 and 2016 on extensions to Mandatory Licensing, Government laid the necessary secondary legislation before Parliament on 23 February 2018, and the measures will come into force on 1 October 2018. It has now (June 2018) issued guidance to local authorities on the implementation of the extensions. The guidance can be found at:
From 1 October 2018, the scope of mandatory licensing of HMOs will be extended to all HMOs with five or more occupants who are living in two or more separate households regardless of the number of storeys in the property. Hitherto, mandatory licensing under the terms of the Housing Act 2004 had been restricted to properties with three or more storeys. Government estimates that there are about 500,000 HMOs in England, and the extension should cover nearly half of these.
In addition, mandatory licensing will also 'prescribe the minimum sizes of rooms that may be used for sleeping' and it will 'introduce a mandatory condition in HMO licences requiring the licence holder to comply with their local authority scheme (if any) for the provision of facilities for the proper disposal and storage of domestic refuse.'
In its response to the consultations (28 December 2018), Government noted that 'Tenants are sometimes exploited and local communities blighted through, for example, rubbish not being properly stored, excessive noise or anti-social behaviour.'
It is important to note that, as is the case with the original HMO licensing provisions in the Housing Act 2004, this extension of mandatory licensing will not prevent development of new HMOs. However, it will increase the means of identifying numbers of HMOs, potentially discourage existing landlords as well as discouraging prospective ones, and will aid local authorities, like Nottingham City Council, in their attempts to crack down on many poor/so-called rogue landlords. In doing this, it will benefit tenants and other residents alike.
It is also important to note that renewal of Nottingham's Additional Licensing scheme, is being consulted on at the moment (see Consultation on Proposals for Additional Licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) 2018 and the links therein). This extends the scope of licensing even further.
Finally, it is doubly important to remember that HMO licensing will not provide the necessary tools for local authorities to control the formation of new HMOs. As things stand at the moment, that can only be achieved through the use of an Article 4 Direction which, supported by appropriate measures in local plans, by removing permitted development rights on a site, requires planning permission to be sought for a new HMO.
In Nottingham, a city-wide Article 4 Direction has been in place since March 2012, and all proposals for the development of new HMOs (including conversion from C3 'family home' to C4 'small HMO') since then have required planning permission to be sought.