Landlords of rental properties in the City of Westminster need to be aware of new additional HMO licensing requirements coming into force in Westminster with effect from 30 August 2021.
An HMO is a house in multiple occupation. This means that any house or individual flat in Westminster that is let to three or more people forming more than one household with shared facilities will need a section 254 HMO license from 30 August. This includes flats in multiple occupation in purpose-built blocks.
A household is defined as occupiers of the same family and includes spouses, cohabitees, same-sex couples and any blood relative.
This differs from a mandatory section 257 HMO licence introduced in England by the Housing Act 2004 where there are five or more people comprising two or more households sharing facilities. A mandatory licence is also required for a building converted into self-contained flats where the conversion did not comply with relevant Building Regulations in force at that time and still does not comply and where less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied.
The purpose behind HMO licensing is to improve living standards in rental accommodation and to prove that landlords are ‘fit and proper’ persons to operate these properties. As part of the licence application, Westminster will usually carry out an inspection of the common parts of the HMO property to check it meets certain standards, such as the presence of fire doors and smoke detectors.
The person applying for the licence will in most cases be the party receiving the rent (the landlord or managing agent).
A fee is payable to Westminster for a section 254 licence. The licence will in most cases be valid for five years.
It is an offence to operate a licensable HMO without a licence and doing so could result in an unlimited fine on conviction or a civil penalty of up to £30,000.
HMO licensing rules are not consistent across every London borough as each borough can create its own set of rules.