HMO Legislation: To License or not to License, that is the question? – If and when you require an HMO License.
A lot of people we talk to seem to get very hung up about HMOs especially when it comes to licenses and licensing. Currently as it stands, not all shared houses and HMOs require a license, however most larger properties will. The key thing to point out here is the requirement for HMO licenses does vary from council to council across the country so the best thing you can do if you are unsure whether your property requires a license is speak to your HMO Officer at the local Council and take their advice but for the purposes of this blog post I just wanted to give you the basic rules that will apply the majority of the time as a good rule of thumb but please do check with the local authority for specific clarification on licensing. The local authority website usually has plenty of detailed information which will help so I urge you to also have a look on that.
All an HMO license does is record that the property is a HMO/Shared house on a public register held by the local authority so they can keep track on them and the property will be subject to annual inspections and certain key regulations needed for larger properties (see another post on what these are). When most people think of licensing they only think of the extra fire regs typically associated with licensed HMOs.
The basic rule of thumb is ANY property which has THREE of MORE stories AND has FIVE or MORE tenants living there, forming more than 1 household, AND have use of shared facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom requires an HMO license.
A note to point out, to require a license, the property must achieve ALL the criteria above. So, for example if you have a two-story house with six tenants that would NOT require a license as it does not meet the on three floors criteria and if you had 3 tenants over 4 floors that also would NOT require a license. As briefly mentioned this does vary from council to council so in Oxford any property with three or more tenants requires licensing.
A key point and probably the most important point of this blog post is even if your HMO doesn’t need licensing, there are still regulations to adhere too and please see out other blog post of this. If you now realise you will require an HMO license, all you need to do is apply to the local authority and fill out the forms (I’ve out a link below for Hereford) and pay a fee (£930 in Hereford) which you then out into the local authority and then will come and do an inspection on the property to make sure they are happy with the required regulations and then grant you the license. If they are not happy all they will do is, ask you to make some changes which once you do will be granted. Once granted a license will last five years before having to reapply for another one.
Some Areas in the country due the large number of HMOs, typically in University cities, local authorities have imposed compulsory licensing otherwise known as Article 4 (e.g. Oxford, Birmingham, Worcester, York). This means all HMOs will require a license to operate as a shared house. If the area you are in is an Article 4 area, then in order to gain an HMO license you will need planning permission which is separate from licensing but needed before you can gain a license. Please see another blog post for details on Article 4 as it is confusing and requires some explaining.
To summarise, if you have a property which is over three floors and has five or more tenants living in it and they share a kitchen then you WILL need to apply for an HMO license from your local authority to operate your houses and an HMO.
We understand this is a complex area of HMOs, luckily Relo has vast experience in licensing and we really understand the ins and outs, so if you would like to know more or clarify a specific point or talk over a property, then please don’t hesitate to give us a ring for a no obligation chat and see if we can help you get clarification.