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Houses in Multiple Occupation

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a mandatory licensing scheme for certain houses in multiple occupation, known as HMO's. The licensing regime came into force in April 2006.

What is a house in Multiple Occupation?
A House in Multiple Occupation or HMO means a building, or part of a building, such as a flat, that:

  • is occupied by more than one household and where more than one household shares - or lacks - an amenity, such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building - but not entirely self-contained flats (whether or not some amenities are shared or lacking)
  • is converted self-contained flats, but does not meet as a minimum standard the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations, and at least one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies

Do all HMO's need a licence?
No, you must apply for a licence if the property you own or manage meets all of the following conditions.

  • The HMO is of three storeys or over (including basements and attics capable of occupation and properties which have business premises above or below residential parts) and
  • occupied by five or more people who form two or more households

In order to grant a licence the authority must be satisfied that;

  • The house is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of persons or households permitted under the licence;
  • The licence holder is a fit and proper person, who is the most appropriate person to be granted the licence;
  • The proposed manager of the HMO, if not the licence holder, is also a fit and proper person;
  • The proposed management arrangements are satisfactory

When will I need to apply?
The regulations came into force on 6 April 2006.  You should ensure that you have made an application for a licence within two months of the property becoming licensable.

How do I apply?
An application form is available to download in PDF at the top of this page, or on request from the Housing Standards Team - telephone 01494 732013.

How long will licences last for?
Licences will normally be granted for five years, but we may grant them for shorter periods.

What is in a licence?
The licence will specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO. It will also include the following conditions, which apply to every licence:

  • a valid current gas safety certificate, which is renewed annually, must be provided
  • proof that all electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • proof that all smoke alarms are correctly positioned and installed
  • each occupier must have a written statement of the terms on which they occupy the property, for example, a tenancy agreement.

Councils may also apply the following conditions:

  • restrictions or prohibitions on the use of parts of the HMO by occupants
  • the landlord or manager must take steps to deal with the behaviour of occupants or visitors
  • to ensure that the condition of the property, its contents, such as furniture and all facilities and amenities, bathroom and toilets for example, are in good working order
  • to carry out specified works or repairs within a particular timeframe
  • a requirement that the responsible person attends an approved training course.

How much will an application cost?
The fee covers the term of the licence (normally 5 years), the basic structure is as follows;

a) Basic Fee - £376
b) Assisted Application Fee £423

The licence fee is required upon application and the licence will not be issued until full payment has been received

The licensing fee is not refundable if the property ceases to become a licensable HMO at any point after it has been issued.

Fee Adjustments
A reduction of £50 will be applied where an applicant is a professionally qualified or accredited landlord, or they submit a full application within two months of the request or at least two full months before the renewal date..

Assisted applications will include applications that require extra assistance from Council Officers to complete a full application.

Who can be a licence holder?
The licence holder must be the appropriate person to hold the licence, e.g. the owner or managing agent of the property, and must be a fit and proper person.

Who is a fit and proper person?
In determining whether a person is fit and proper to hold a licence for or be a manager of a HMO the Council must consider whether the person or a relevant associate has been involved in;

  • Offences of fraud;
  • Offences of dishonesty;
  • Offences of violence;
  • Drug Offences;
  • Unlawful discrimination in business;
  • Contravention of housing law;
  • Breach of applicable codes of housing practice.
     

If the Council does not grant me a licence, can I appeal this decision?

The Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) is an independent, government sponsored body, which provides a tribunal service for the leasehold and private renting housing market. The Housing Act 2004 has extended the powers of this body.

As a result of this extension of powers the RPTS is the body, not the County Court, to which landlords can make appeals concerning enforcement action and licensing decisions taken by the Council.

Further information on appeals visit the Justice website

What are the penalties if I continue to run a HMO that requires a licence, without obtaining a licence?
Section 72 of the Housing Act 2004 makes it a criminal offence if a person managing or controlling an HMO does not have the required licence. A person found guilty of such an offence will be subject to a fine up to a maximum of £20,000.

Breaching of a condition contained in a licence is an offence; such a breach is punishable by a fine of up to £5000.

It is also an offence to permit the HMO to be inhabited by more persons than the licence permits to occupy it, this is punishable by a fine of up to £20,000.

Where there is no prospect that the HMO can be licensed, the Act requires the Council to make an Interim Management Order. This enables the Council to take over the management of an HMO and become responsible for running the property and collecting the rent for up to a year. In extreme cases this can be extended as a Final Management Order to five years with the Council also having the power to grant tenancies.

Can a tenant claim back rent on an unlicensed property?
A tenant living in a property that should have been licensed, but was not, can apply to the Residential Property Tribunal Service to claim back any rent they have paid during the unlicensed period (up to a limit of twelve months).

South Bucks District Council can also reclaim any housing benefit that has been paid during the time the property was without a licence.

Further information on appeals visit the Justice website.

Where can I find out more information about licensing?
In the first instance please contact the Council's Housing Standards Team on 01494 732013.

You can also access information on Licensing and the Housing Act 2004 from the Department for Communities and Local Government , or the property licence websites.