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Houses of multiple occupation and extended mandatory licensing

Any property that is occupied by more than two people who are not related or living as a couple, and where rent is paid and facilities shared can be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). A HMO can be a house or flat which is occupied by a group of students or professionals who share all the facilities, or it can be a property which is occupied by people living in bedsits and/or some self-contained flats. It can also include some guest houses, hostels and hotels. The type of individuals or number of tenancies in the property has no bearing on whether it is a HMO under the Housing Act.

Where to find help

For further information please refer to the Housing Act 2004 or visit the Gov.UK website. 

For landlords with HMO property, the following information is useful to display on a notice board in the communal area.

  • Landlord contact details.
  • Emergency contact details for any electrician/plumber/heating engineer if arrangements are in place for urgent repairs and so on
  • gas safety certificate.
  • Fire alarm test log.
  • Fire evacuation information and fire safety instructions for example fire doors to be kept shut, no smoking, no candles and so on
  • waste and recycling information and collection days.
  • HMO licence (if applicable).

Please note that planning permission may be required to operate a HMO and you are advised to contact the planning department for more details. Houses in multiple occupation can be home for some of the more vulnerable members of society and there is a greater risk of fire in such properties. This is why there is additional legislation specific to HMOs.

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 apply to all HMOs and cover a number of items. In essence they require that the properties are kept in a good state of repair and that all facilities are in good working order at all times. A full copy of the Management Regulations can be found below.

All HMOs must be sound, safe and well managed. They need to be free from health and safety hazards. Please refer to the Housing Health and Safety Rating system - chapter nine in the Landlords Guide.

One area of particular emphasis in houses in multiple occupation is fire precautions. This includes the provision of fire doors, firefighting equipment such as fire blankets and extinguishers along with automatic fire detection systems and in some cases emergency lighting. More details on the standards to be found in HMOs can be found in the Landlord and Letting Agents Guide to Responsible Renting, as above.

Houses of multiple occupation (HMO) and extending mandatory licensing

The current licensing regime covers properties with three or more storeys and five or more people living in the property. From the 1 October 2018 HMOs that are occupied by 5 or more people with any number of storeys will be licensable. This means that flats, converted flats and one or two storey properties will become licensable.

Landlords of HMOs that fall under the new definition will be committing a criminal offence if they fail to apply for a licence or a temporary exemption notice by the 1 October 2018.  

Licence conditions will now also include minimum room sizes and waste disposal provision.

Please be advised that the onus is on the owner of the HMO to submit an application for a license to this Authority. Applications must be made by the 1 October 2018. The Council is now accepting applications.

HMO licence applications may now be made online which includes a facility for online payment of the licensing fee. To make an application online, please use the link below:

Please note that Landlords accredited under the Cheshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme are eligible to claim a 10% reduction on the HMO licensing fee.

Further details about the changes to mandatory licensing of HMOs can be found on the goverment's website.

Licensing of houses in multiple occupation

Certain HMOs need to be licensed by the Local Authority. Mandatory HMO Licensing applies to HMOs which are occupied by five or more unrelated people who live in a property and there is sharing of amenities such as a kitchen or a bathroom. Licences are currently required if accommodation is provided on 3 floors.  From 1 October 2018,  HMOs with 5 or more occupants sharing amenities (irrespective of the number of floors) will require a HMO licence. From this date, Mandatory licence conditions will also stipulate minimum room sizes for adults and children, and sets requirements with regards to waste provision. More details can be found via Gov.uk

It is an offence to operate an unlicensed HMO with fines up to £20,000 and the potential for courts to require that rent is repaid to tenants if the property is unlicensed.

Online applications can be made for 3 storey HMOs and other HMOs in preparation for 1 October 2018. Please use the link below.

Article 4

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) can provide an affordable type of housing for tenants looking for accommodation in an area as well as contributing to the overall mix of housing types and tenures available. High concentrations of HMOs can cause an imbalance in communities which can sometimes have a detrimental impact on neighbourhoods.

For this reason, the Council is changing planning rules relating to further proposed HMOs in areas of Chester City. The proposed change will have the effect of requiring a planning application to be submitted when a family home (Use Class C3) is being converted into a HMO occupied by three to six unrelated people (Use Class C4). This planning control is called an Article 4 Direction. 

The introduction of an Article 4 Direction will allow the Council to assess, on a case by case basis whether applications for the creation of new HMOs are acceptable or not in planning terms. The changes do not affect existing HMOs, but it will help to control the number of new HMOs created.

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