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HMOs – a risky business?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

A landlord in Lincoln has been fined £40,000 for failing to obtain an HMO licence and for failing to ensure that the property was safe.  This should serve as a stark reminder to landlords of the need to keep up to date with an area of law which is constantly changing and which all political parties have their sights set upon reforming.

In October 2018, the law relating to Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) was tightened up.  The rules that apply to properties occupied by more than one household changed and more and more now require licences.  The chances are now that if more than 3 tenants live in a property, sharing a bathroom or kitchen and forming more than one household a licence will be required.  The fine for not getting one?  Up to £20,000 and the possibility of having to repay rent to tenants.

Our Housing Team are consulted frequently by well meaning private landlords whose portfolios have evolved over time but whose management of those properties has not kept up with the ever-changing legislation in this area.

Recently our Team advised a client to forego a claim against tenants who are not paying rent rather than risk alerting them to a claim for repayment of all rent previously paid as the landlord has failed to obtain an HMO Licence (that’s now being done!).

A year on from those changes in the Lincoln case 7 tenants complained about the condition of the property they were living and the Court found that the property itself was dangerous.  No working fire alarm was fitted, fire doors were missing and there was a slip hazard on the stairs caused by the presence of gloss paint.  To add insult to potential injury, windows could be padlocked shut, risking an emergency exit being prevented.

The Court took a dim view of this and fined the landlord £40,000 for the failings.

Following the Grenfell Fire disaster and these changes in the law, it seems the Courts are ready to be tough on landlords.  In May of 2019 a Court in Hertfordshire fined a landlord £45,000 for not having an HMO Licence and for a lack of safety measures.

The defence in that case – that the landlord was not a professional landlord – was rejected.

For advice on HMOs or to discuss any claim made against you as a landlord, contact our expert Housing Team