Welcome to the Hazardous World of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

The licensing of HMO properties was introduced in the Housing Act 2004. For the purposes of this guide, all information pertains to current Derby City Council requirements. Other council licensing schemes may be different.

What is an HMO?

In most cases an HMO is a house or a flat in which two or more households live as their main or only residence and where some of these households share basic facilities, such as a kitchen, toilet or bathroom.

Other types of HMO include converted buildings such as non self-contained flats; buildings that include self-contained flats and which meet certain tests; and other buildings where basic facilities are missing.

The Management of an HMO

The Housing Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 apply to all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) other than converted blocks of flats that have their own management regulations and are defined by Section 257 of the Housing Act 2004.

These regulations place a number of duties upon the manager of an HMO. Both landlords and managing agents should make sure they comply with these regulations at all times.
Failing to comply with the HMO management regulations may result in prosecution and an unlimited fine for each offence.

Does my HMO require a licence?

At present Derby City Council operates the Mandatory HMO licensing Scheme. Owners of HMOs of three or more storeys (including habitable basements and attics) that have five or more occupants forming two or more households, require a licence.

If you own or manage an HMO of this sort and have not already done so, you must apply for a licence. Failing to licence a property is an offence which upon conviction may lead to a very heavy fine.

HMO’s and HHSRS

… it gets scarier!

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a system which Housing Standards officers must use to assess the seriousness of hazards in someone’s home.
There are up to 29 hazards that an officer may have to look at. The Council has a legal duty to address category one hazards (the most serious) using formal action against a landlord and a power to do the same with regard to category two hazards.

Some of the most common hazards found in private rented sector homes are excessive cold, dampness and mould growth, fire, crowding and space, electrical hazards and falls (on stairs, steps and on the level).

A full guide to the 29 Hazards can be downloaded HERE

CASE STUDY (Source: Letting Agent Today Feb18)

Examples of HMO breaches are an everyday occurrence across the UK. Here is one example from February 2018:

Harbhajan Singh Dhami, of Wolverhampton, has pleaded guilty to failing to put right 32 housing offences at an HMO in the city. He and his company, Dhami Accommodation Ltd, received fines, charges and costs totalling £33,995 at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court.

The property consisting of two sets of units – 11 flats in total with seven in occupation – was inspected by council housing officers several times in March and April last year. It was found no approval had been sought for the conversion of the property to flats, therefore confirming it was a HMO and should be regulated under the HMO regulations.
Further inspection in June revealed the landlord had also failed to deal with fire hazards, electrical issues, damp, and the large accumulation of waste to the rear of the property. As a result of the condition of the property and the risk it posed to the tenants the council served a Prohibition Order, which came into effect on July 28 to prohibit its occupation.

Dhami blamed the tenants for the damage to the property but accepted that the tenants in the property were vulnerable and therefore the duty of care that he owed to his tenants was much greater. The council says that from the company accounts provided to the court it was clear that the company had made a substantial profit.
The judge said that while Dhami would be given credit for his guilty plea he would be sentenced on the high risk involved. It was clear that the property was a high fire risk and that candles were being used at the property which also had loose wiring.

The fact that one of the walls was separating from the structure leaving a gap, together with the blocked means of escape, missing banisters, an inoperative fire alarm system and disconnected smoke detectors created a risk of smoke penetration and injury in the event of a fire.

Apart from the fire risk the damp throughout the property posed a risk to health. There had been a lack of compliance from Dhami when council officers had required him to correct these problems and a lack of response when he was given the opportunity to do so.

Advice if you are considering or are already renting out an HMO…  Use an agent!