Landlords! Do you need a HMO licence?

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a commonly used term in property letting.

However, few landlords really understand what it means and whether it applies to their rental property.

What is a HMO?

The term House in Multiple Occupation refers to a rental property which falls into one of the following categories:

  • A house which is split into bedsits
  • A house, or flat share, where each of your tenants has their own tenancy agreement
  • Students who live in shared accommodation
  • Bed & Breakfast accommodation and hostels which are not used just for holidays

Do you need a HMO licence?

If you let out the following rental property, it will be a HMO:

  • An entire flat or house which you let to three or more tenants.
  • Bedsits which you let singly and where the tenants share facilities of a kitchen, bathroom and toilet.
  • Separate flats (which include studio flats) let singly where the tenants share some facilities.
  • A building which is entirely converted into flats which doesn’t meet the current regulations (the 1991 Building Regulations) and where a third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies.

The three questions you should ask yourself to find out if you need a HMO license are:

  1. Does your rental property have three or more storeys?
  2. Do you let your property to five or more unrelated tenants?
  3. Do your tenants share facilities?

If you answer ‘yes’ to all three questions, then you may need a HMO license, but if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, it’s still wise to contact your council as there are exceptions to who needs a HMO license.

As a HMO landlord, your responsibilities include the following:

Gas Safety Certificate (CP12)

As a landlord, you are responsible for making sure that any appliances in your rented properties are safe and hold a valid landlords gas safety certificate.

If you let a property connected to a mains gas supply, you must arrange an annual maintenance check of gas pipe work, appliances and flues. This should be carried out by an engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register – formerly Corgi.

You should keep inspection records for at least two years and give copies of the reports to your existing tenants within 28 days of each check. You should also give copies to new tenants before they move in.
Your tenants are responsible for any gas appliances they own, but you must still maintain the parts of any associated gas installations – like flues and ventilation grilles – and the pipe work.

Electrical Installation Safety

At the beginning of each new tenancy, you should ensure that electrical installations – like fixed wiring – are safe and well maintained.  Any electrical appliances you supply to tenants – like cookers and kettles – should be safe for them to use.

You should carry out regular inspections of fixed electrical installations – like sockets and light fittings – every five years.

You should also arrange, at least once a year, for a qualified electrician to carry out a portable appliance testing (PAT) safety test on any portable electrical equipment you provide for tenants, like kettles. The PAT tester will give you a dated certificate and put stickers on the plugs of appliances to show that they are safe.

Fire safety standards

You must make sure your tenants have an escape route from your properties in case of fire. Depending on the size of the property, you may also have to provide fire alarms and extinguishers.

If you have a property let out to several different tenants, you may be asked to carry out a fire risk assessment by your local housing authority or fire service.

You must follow the fire-resistant furniture regulations if you let furnished accommodation to tenants. Furniture manufacturers will usually label their fire-resistant products. If a property is let on a one-off, short-term basis – for example, while you work away from home – the regulations do not apply.

Energy Performance Certificates

If you rent out, buy, sell or build a property, you will need to get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). An EPC rates the energy efficiency of a property. It is based on the building’s energy performance – for example, how much heat is lost through the roof.

An EPC also takes account of the property’s heating and lighting.  EPCs do not cover domestic appliance performance, like washing machines.

An EPC is valid for ten years – even if new tenants move into your property during that time. You should give a copy of your property’s current EPC to each new tenant.

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