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Housing Act Guide

Introduction / Changes In Legislation

1. Introduction

Under legislation passed in 2004 major changes have become law relating to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), licensing and fire safety. This website sets out to explain these in what is hopefully an understandable way. However, the legislation is complex and as yet not fully tested. This legislation is administered by local authorities.

2. Summary of main changes

The legislation introduces the following main changes:

  • A new system for assessing housing conditions and enforcing housing standards in all types of residential accommodation – the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”). This is an enforcement tool kit for local authorities.
  • A new definition of house in multiple occupation for housing/environmental health purposes (“HMOs”). The main change is that shared houses (for students young professionals etc) become HMOs.
  • Mandatory/compulsory licensing of certain larger HMOs being HMOs thought to pose greater risks (Mandatory HMO Licensing)
  • Power for the local authority where there are problems due to poor management to require other types of HMO to be licensed (Additional HMO Licensing). There are properties with 5 or more occupants and 3 or more storeys (both conditions must apply).
  • Selective Licensing of all rented accommodation in certain areas where there is low demand/anti social behaviour
  • Transfer of appeals etc to the Residential Property Tribunal.

3. What the legislation does not do

The legislation does not require a number of important things.

  1. Not all private sector rented properties need to be licensed – only “larger” HMOs will be subject to HMO licensing with certain other HMOs and rented dwellings being subject to discretionary licensing.
  2. All HMOs do not require a licence – although the definition of HMO is being extended to include shared housing only a sub-division of this new definition (i.e. those with at least 3 storeys and 5 or more occupants) will be within mandatory licensing.
  3. Landlords do not need to have a licence actually granted in order to continue in business – an application suffices.
  4. Licensing does not address the condition/fabric of the property – licensing is primarily about people although it will deal with amenities such as toilets and washing facilities.
  5. HHSRS does not oblige a landlord to carry out a risk assessment such as an employer has to undertake. HHSRS is an enforcement tool for local authorities. However, common parts in flats and HMOs will require a fire safety risk assessment under the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order.

4. Implementation

The legislation came into force on 6th April 2006.

This document was last updated on: 17/05/2007

General Disclaimer

IMPORTANT: Our website (including the Unique Property Selector) can only give general guidance. You always need to specifically check the status of any property individually and take appropriate advice including general guidance from the local authority where it is located.

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