Whilst there are many good landlords in the private sector, there are commonly cases of HMOs being poorly managed and in poor physical condition.
Licensing, which was introduced in 2006 and replaced previous HMO registration schemes, is aimed at raising management and amenity standards to ensure that HMOs are being kept to the required standards.
The requirements of the Housing Act 2004 regarding HMO licensing are dealt with by local housing authorities – the council!
The Housing Act 2004 introduced three different types of licensing, two of which specifically relate to HMOs:
- Mandatory HMO licensing
- Additional HMO licensing
- Selective licensing of all privately rented housing in specific areas (further criteria apply).
Local councils have discretion to introduce additional licensing of other types of HMOs which are not subject to mandatory licensing, including poorly converted self-contained flats (also known as Section 257 HMOs after the section in the Act which defines them). This may be in a defined geographical area or across the whole of a council’s area. These schemes are aimed at dealing with situations that cannot be improved by any other means. The council has to consult local landlords before introducing additional licensing and they have to publicise it when it comes into force.
Selective licensing does not specifically relate to HMOs. Schemes may be introduced in areas of low demand housing or areas with significant anti-social behaviour problems. Such problems, usually created by just a few landlords or tenants can have a massive impact in an area and selective licensing is intended to help improve such areas. All privately rented properties within a selective licensing area have to be licensed, regardless of whether or not the property is an HMO. The local council has to consult local landlords before introducing selective licensing in an area and they have to publicise it when it is made.