The Housing Act 2004 introduced the Mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Larger HMOs which are three stories or above with five or more occupants, consisting of two or more families need to be licensed by Gateshead Council. This is due to the increased risk of fire associated with these properties.
Properties will be inspected and licenses issued by the Councils Private Sector Housing Enforcement Team. The Council will have the discretion to extend licensing to other categories of HMO’s to address particular problems that may exist in smaller properties.
The Act also provides for a new definition of HMO, and limits the scope of licensing and enforcement action (other than in relation to Housing, Health and Safety Rating System action) to certain types of HMO’s within that definition.
Why is Licensing necessary?
There are increased risks associated with this type of housing particularly in relation to fire (over ten times the risk associated with single occupancy housing). High standards of management, maintenance and fire precautions are needed to ensure that occupants can enjoy safe, clean and high standards of living accommodation.
The standard of management in some HMO's has been found to be seriously deficient, such as to present a risk to the occupants and in some cases, anti-social behaviour to other residents and the neighbourhood.
It is acknowledged that the private rented sector has a valuable role to play in meeting demands and offering choice and flexibility in the housing market. However, there are concerns regarding the condition of houses in multiple occupation, with some landlords lacking the skills and knowledge to manage their properties in a professional manner. A minority also engage in criminal behaviour or condone their tenants’ criminal or anti-social behaviour.
It is against this backdrop that licensing of HMO’s seeks to ensure that:
- Landlords are ‘fit’ and ‘proper’ persons or employ agents who are,
- High risk HMO’s and their landlords are identified, so that health and safety measures are implemented,
- Vulnerable tenants can be protected,
There will be a fee payable by the landlord to cover the cost of processing the licence application and inspecting the property to determine whether it meets the relevant standards. The current fee is £682.00 for a five-year licence for a property, which contains 5 habitable units of accommodation. An additional charge of £10.00 is made for each habitable room in excess of five. Discounts are available for member of the Gateshead private landlords association and accredited properties.
To obtain a licence your property will need to have adequate facilities and space for the number of tenants possible (e.g. number of WC’s, Baths/showers, cooking facilities etc.). The property will also need to meet the standards for management; including those for gas and electrical safety, fire safety and also to ensure all furniture is fire retardant.