11 October 2018
Most councils do not know how many houses of multiple occupation are in their district and whether they should be licensed under the HMO regulations introduced on 1 October.
The property investment company, Touchstone, has carried out research that shows that most local authorities (LAs) do not know how many properties are HMOs and whether they meet licensing conditions, including fire safety and the new minimum room size requirements.
Consequently, thousands of HMOs could be illegal, exposing landlords and agents to fines. Tenants could lose their homes.
From 1 October, the HMO rules changed and now apply to properties of any height where there are five or more sharers in two or more households. Previously, only properties of three storeys or more were covered.
Ten years ago, the government estimated there were 56,000 licensed HMOs. Dwellings that were licensed under the previous sytem are automatically transferred, but the government says that 160,000 properties could fall under the new regulations and LAs have three years to find them.
Of the 238 authorities that responded to a Freedom of Information request from Touchstone, 93 said they had carried out research to establish how many properties in their area require an HMO licence.
Only 14 said they were checking how many of the properties were in a condition where they could expect to be granted an HMO licence.
Paul Smith, Touchstone's chief executive, said “We’re aware of a local authority with 1800 properties classed as HMOs and privately it told us that only around 40% will meet the new regulations.
“If that’s happening across the country, we could be looking at a major problem.
“Ministers have estimated 160,000 properties could be affected but I would be interested to know how they arrived at that figure because most local authorities have not conducted any research.”
Property Industry Eye