The Business Legal Services Blog

Confused by the new HMO rules?

Are you confused by the new HMO rules? In this month’s column, Sarah Coates-Madden clarifies who they affect and warns landlords ignore them at your peril…

I own a small house that is rented to several people. Do I now need an HMO licence?

On October 1, new regulations came into force affecting owners of all houses and flats in multiple occupancy.

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations have an 18-month roll out period for compliance and it is the HMO itself, not the building, that requires the permit. This means landlords need to ensure separate licences are in place for each dwelling, if you own multiple HMOs in one property.

Until now, HMOs only required a licence if the property had three or more storeys, was occupied by five or more people, living in two or more households and the inhabitants shared basic amenities, such as washing and cooking facilities.

You must now have one if your HMOs have five or more occupants living in two or more dwellings (regardless of how many storeys the property has). Purpose built flats are also affected if there are more than two in the block and one or more of them is occupied by five or more people in two separate households. This includes flats above shops.

Assuming you weren’t previously subject to a licence, you now have six months to comply with the new legislation before facing penalties. After this point, criminal sanctions will be imposed. However, if you should have a local authority additional or selective licence and it is not in place, the grace period does not apply.

Should you wish to serve a Section 21 notice seeking possession, you will be unable to do so until an application for the HMO licence has been made.

Failure to obtain one can result in prosecution in the magistrates’ court and fines have been unlimited since 2015, thanks to the Housing Act 2004. Local authorities are also able to issue civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence as an alternative to prosecution.

My advice would be to review your properties as soon as possible to ensure you comply with the changes. If you have any questions about the introduction of the new HMO licensing rules, don’t hesitate to contact me or Anna Pettinger on (0114) 218 4000, or email

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