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New HMO licensing from Oct 2018

Last week I attended the monthly meetup for the excellent Crawley Property Meet which included a presentation by the person responsible for HMO licensing in Crawley.

From the 1st October 2018 the national rules on HMO licensing are changing so that they cover a lot more properties. Previously HMOs less than three stories high were not included, but from October 1st they will be. That's not the only change though, below are details of the talk I watched last week with all the relevant details; including some Crawley specific numbers and links. If you'd rather watch instead of read, one of the ladies behind Crawley Property Meet have recorded a video version of the presentation which I've embedded at the end of this post.

New HMO changes

The existing mandatory (ie nation-wide) scheme changes as of 1st October 2018.

Some councils have additional HMO licensing beyond the mandatory rules but Crawley only uses the mandatory scheme.

What's an HMO for licensing purposes?

From the 1st October 2018 any dwelling, regardless of the number of floors is an HMO if the occupants are 5 or more people from 2 or more households (roughly equates to them not being related).

Licensing process

All licence application processes will require completing a form and providing other documents. Some authorities use an online process, currently Crawley does not - the application form must be printed and filled in. Crawley are hoping to move this process online in the next financial year.

The Crawley HMO page and application form can be found here.

Details needed for an application include:

  • Applicant information
  • Licence holder information
  • Manager and owner contact details
  • Details to confirm the licence holder is a "fit and proper person"
  • Planning permission (if more than six tenants)
  • Building regulations approval, if significant changes, refurbishment, etc (including just internal work)
  • A4 floor plan showing rooms, sizes, smoke detectors, etc; there's a good guide to drawing a plan from the Crawley website.
  • Example tenancy agreement

Building safety requirements

To pass the licensing process the building will need to meet a number of safety requirements. The key points presented were:

  • Three storey buildings require emergency lighting, occasionally two storey buildings will too if the exit route is "complicated".
  • 30 minute fire doors (three storey), with self closers.
  • 20 minute fire doors (two storey), with self closers.
  • Multi purpose fire extinguisher on each floor (Crawley recommend the powder type).
  • Fire blanket in kitchen (away from the cooker).
  • No key should be required to get out of rooms. Multiple types of lock/mechanism are available to support this.
  • HMO noticeboard required in a common area with contact details, EPC, gas safety and a copy of the HMO licence.
  • PAT testing for all electrical appliances must be done every year.
  • The landlord is responsible for "hygiene" within shared areas.

Strongly recommended the overhead type of door closers, although other types of door closer are accepted. Whatever the type of closer, it must be kept in working order.

Door closers should be on all habitable rooms on the escape route plus "at risk" rooms, ie kitchens. Bathrooms and toilets likely do not require door closers.

Room sizes

The new mandatory HMO licence rules include fixed minimum bedroom sizes. Some councils have already included these in their additional licensing but they are new for Crawley.

The raw size requirements are:

  • Single adult bedroom: 6.51 m2
  • Double adult bedroom: 10.32 m2
  • Child (under 10) bedroom: 4.64 m2

Things to be aware of when measuring your room sizes:

  • En-suite bathrooms do not count
  • You cannot combine multiple rooms (regardless of whether the tenant has exclusive access to them)
  • Areas with a ceiling under 1.5m high do not count
  • The floor space must be usable as an actual floor
  • Cupboards - if the cupboards was removed, does it free up usable floor space? If so, it can count towards the allowance

Local Crawley help

If in any doubt, the private sector housing team are available for free advice in Crawley. They can be reached by email on ps.housing@crawley.gov.uk

Licence cost and duration

The fees are always available online (here for Crawley). A Crawley licence starts at £1099 for a 5-bed HMO.

The licences last for five years in Crawley (and most places) and renewals cheaper (currently started from £780 in Crawley).

The council may choose to issue a licence that's valid for less than five years in some circumstances, eg if they feel any details about the landlord or property may need early review.

Crawley are expecting to review the licence fees towards the end of the year. They aren't currently expecting them to change significantly though.

Issuing process

The council will always issue a draft licence to everyone involved in the property, including any mortgage company and the freeholder. This means a property cannot be licensed without their knowledge.

The mortgage company may object, although that isn't actually grounds for council to refuse a licence. However it may trigger an issue with the mortgage provider!

The rogue landlords database will also be checked.

Timing - new licences and renewals

All properties that fall under the new mandatory HMO definition must apply for a licence before 1st October 2018. It's quite likely that not all licences will be issued before October 1st.

You cannot run a licensable HMO until the application has been submitted. You could move in 4 tenants though and then leave rooms empty until the application has been submitted.

The new room sizes will not apply to existing (ie larger, 3 floor HMO) licences until the licence is due for renewal.

Landlords will then have 18 months to change the room size (ie by moving a wall) or to stop using it as a bedroom.

Fire safety clarifications

You should only need small fire extinguishers, which shouldn't need annual servicing.

The fire brigade would like alarm test logs to be monthly, but the council will look for them to be at least a few times a year (eg quarterly).

Finding unlicensed properties

Once the good landlords have all applied to new HMO licences, how will the council find the bad landlords who haven't?

The council already have a list of known HMO properties from a number of sources and they're always collecting new information from sources such as: deposit protection schemes council benefits team planning applications social workers health workers neighbours

How many "new" HMOs are there in Crawley?

The council's current best-estimate is something in the region of 350 new properties to licence from 1st October.

Providing safety certificates

Updated safety certificates (eg annual renewals) do not need to be submitted to the council but they must be provided within ten days of request (by the council or other official bodies). The penalty for not doing so was £5,000 but with newer civil penalties can now be up to £30,000.

Video

Most of the information above was re-presented by Tania from Crawley Property Meet in the following video...

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