A CASE in which four tenants were able to claim £15,000 (the equivalent of almost a year’s rent) from their landlord has sent alarm bells ringing through the industry. By the tenants’ own admission, their rental property in Leeds was clean and well-managed. But when a visit from a local housing officer revealed the landlord was renting it to them without being in possession of a valid HMO licence, the tenants applied for a rent repayment order (RRO), took him to court and netted £15,000.
This £15,000 mistake isn’t an isolated occurrence. It’s the beginning of a movement with thousands of other tenants being encouraged to look into their own circumstances, with a view to filing claims of their own. To avoid being slammed by the same action, we encourage landlords (and agents) to remember the following:
The law has changed
And with it the definitions of a large HMO. Until 2018, if a house had fewer than three storeys, it escaped being defined as a House of Multiple Occupancy. But in 2018, an extension to mandatory licensing redefined a large HMO as containing five or more residents (as was the case with the tenants in Leeds) and a license is required.
Your property doesn’t need to be enormous to require an HMO
The definition of an HMO is now based on the number of households residing at the property. If a property has two or more households (a household being defined as a single person or members of the same family who live together), it’s defined as an HMO. This means that you could own a tiny two bedroom and still require a license.
Under new regulations, bedrooms have to be a certain size. The sizing varies depending on the age of the tenant* (children require less space). If the rooms are too small, no allowances will be made. Even if the living areas are large enough to make up for smaller bedrooms, no license will be given so do get out your measuring tape.
The devil is in the detail
There’s a raft of information required when completing the HMO licensing application form. Although it varies council to council, you may need to provide gas safety certificates, safety certificates for all white goods and appliances, permission from your mortgage provider (if applicable), the property’s freeholder (if applicable) as well as accurate floor plans and a complete inventory. Providing inaccurate information could invalidate your license. If you fall foul of it, you will be hit from all sides. Tenants can apply for RRO for up to a year’ rent, your local council can issue you with an unlimited fine and you could end up on the rogue landlords register so it’s worth getting it right.
Luckily, Fixflo has a cheat sheet available for FREE download, which will offers tips for the key steps involved in an entire licencing cycle.
Those requiring more information about room size, please see: