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Preparing for HMO licensing changes - Stage 2

Information on preparing for HMO licensing changes - Stage 2

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • Background
  • Suitability of HMO amenities

The licensing of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in England is changing on 1 October 2018 and in preparation for this, we have provided useful information for landlords and property managers on our website at www.colchester.gov.uk/hmolicensing.

We are also in the process of making the HMO application process available on our website. This new online application process will allow landlords or their property managers to apply, pay for and upload supporting documentation for their HMO licence on our website. Online applications will be available in early September, giving landlords or their property managers several weeks to apply.

What should I do now to prepare?
As well as reading through this document, we recommend that you read our Stage 1 guide to explore options ahead of the change in law such as checking the terms of your mortgage etc. if you haven’t already done so.

Suitability of HMO amenities (room sizes, shared amenities etc.)

Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 requires councils to assess whether an HMO that is subject to a licence application is “reasonably suitable for occupation by the proposed number of persons/households intended to occupy it”. In practice this means that we have to assess against any nationally set standards, such as the recently introduced minimum room sizes:

  • 6.51m2 - Single bedroom
  • 10.22m2 - Twin or double bedroom
  • 4.64m2 - Child’s bedroom for someone aged under 10 years

However, it is safe to say that nationally set standards for HMOs only cover some of the important issues and Part 2 of the Housing Act provides councils with the ability to consider matters beyond those set nationally when making HMO licensing decisions. 

In Essex, councils jointly developed guidance on HMO amenities and consulted landlords, tenants and other interested parties before introducing an updated guide. The Guide to Essex HMO Amenity Standards is being used across the county to provide consistent guidance on expectations for different types of HMO accommodation. This single point of reference provides:

  1. Assurance for residents about what they can expect when living in an HMO
  2. Clear guidance for landlords and developers
  3. A framework for participating councils when making HMO licensing decisions

We strongly recommend that you audit your HMOs against the guide, to identify any potential problem areas. The Council will refuse to grant a licence due to inadequate amenities in extreme circumstances however, in most cases, licences will be granted with conditions that provide a reasonable timescale for amenities to be improved or the number of persons/households to be reduced.

Demonstrating effective management

The law also requires councils to assess whether the management arrangements for an HMO are satisfactory when considering licence applications. Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 states that we should consider management competence, funding arrangements and management structures.

As part of the licence application we will be looking for evidence to make this assessment, including:

  • Records of any relevant training
  • Membership of landlord associations or trade bodies
  • Any management agreement made between a landlord and property manager
  • Insight into the arrangements that are in place to comply with HMO management regulations

HMO management regulations place additional legal duties on landlords and HMO managers to ensure that all HMOs (even those occupied by just 3 unrelated persons) are well managed. These duties reflect the extra responsibility that comes with bringing unrelated people together under one roof and the greater risk of management problems arising.

The onus is on HMO landlords and managers to take responsibility for, and demonstrate, that they have suitable and effective arrangements in place to comply with the new regulations.

Supporting documents including floor plans

We will require every HMO licence application to be provided with supporting documents. For example, an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is a requirement of the HMO management regulations. We recommend that landlords and property managers keep all certificates and agreements relating to each licensable HMO in a suitable electronic format (PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, CSV) ready to be uploaded for each licence application.

Floor plans are also required in support of HMO licence applications. They are a valuable tool for providing information about room sizes, locations, the number of facilities, fire escape routes and safety features such as smoke alarm systems.    

Please read the guide to producing suitable floor plans. If you would like assistance with floor plans, Colchester Borough Council does offer this service and can produce suitable floor plans for an additional fee of £100 per HMO. This option will be available via the online application form. 

When will the online HMO licence application process be available?

The online HMO licensing application will be available in September at www.colchester.gov.uk/hmolicensing.