A Simple Guide to HMO Room SizesV1-JC-02062015

The Landlord Advice Team are occasionally asked whether Councils can dictate the minimum sizes of a room in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) as part of their licencing.

Councils have powers to decide on the maximum number of persons living in shared accommodation and they do this for licensable HMOs (House in Multiple Occupation) through the specific HMO legislation. This legislation places a duty on Councils to ensure that the house is suitable for occupation by no more than the number of people stated on the licence. Where councils feel that a property is not suitable then they can refuse to give a licence or place conditions on it.

Having accepted that Councils can decide on the number of people living in a licenced HMO, the question is whether they can dictate on the minimum room size? Any local Council "standard" should be viewed as guidance only and it should not be confused with the Council's right to decide on the maximum number of occupants. The council has to assess the suitability of the whole property when considering how many people will be allowed to live in the property and cannot set a binding minimum room size standard as a condition of their licence.

However, landlords should be aware that there are national minimum room size standards that will apply in most cases. Part X of the Housing Act 1988 sets a minimum room size which applies to all dwellings including licensed and unlicensed HMO's and will be the basis of most council guidance on licenced HMOs. If the room size in question is below this minimum then it is likely a licensing appeal would fail. However, it does not prevent landlords from appealing the licensing decision, particularly where the bedrooms are above the legal minimum size and/or they have large communal areas that should be taken into account.

Landlords can appeal to a tribunal if they disagree with the Council's decision.

For further information, visit the RLA's Guide on Room Size Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

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