What tenants in HMOs need to know

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The rules governing how Houses in Multiple Occupation, or HMOs, come under different legislation to normal residential properties and HMOs need to be licensed by the local authority.

Some tenants may wonder whether they live in a HMO, these are the criteria:

  • If you share a bathroom, toilet or kitchen facilities with other tenants
  • There are at least three tenants living there who make up more than one household

In addition, there are rules about large HMOs and the criteria for these is:

  • There are at least five tenants living there, which make up more than one household
  • The tenant shares a bathroom, toilet or kitchen facilities with other tenants
  • The property itself is at least three stories high

For the sake of clarification; a household, within HMO rules, is defined as being a single person or members of the same family who are living together and is therefore not a HMO.

The most important thing to appreciate for any tenant living in an HMO is that should they make a complaint to their landlord for a problem to be put right and they do not do so, then they can approach the local council who will make the landlord resolve any issues or problems.

Problems with HMO landlords

The next most important issue for a tenant is if you have been paying rent to a landlord who has been running an unlicensed HMO - then you may be able to reclaim part of the rent if the landlord is then prosecuted by the local authority.

Basically, the landlord is held legally liable for keeping the property free from the risk of fire and to ensure that there are decent facilities provided for those living there. This means that a landlord will need to ensure the tenants have proper fire safety measures in place and that smoke detectors have been installed.

Landlords are also responsible for ensuring that safety checks are carried out every year, and that the electrics are checked by a qualified person every five years.

The landlord must also ensure that there are adequate washing and cooking facilities for the tenants and that any communal areas are clean and kept in good repair. The landlord must also provide enough rubbish bins for those living there.

There are also rules about not overcrowding the property and a local council will be able to enforce this rule.

Complaining about a HMO landlord

Should a tenant need to make a complaint about their HMO landlord then they should contact the environmental health department of their local authority if they believe the landlord is breaching HMO rules.

If the council then investigates a complaint, and they find that the rules have been broken, they can prosecute the landlord, as well as any manager that has been employed to look after the property, and the council can also take over the running of the property itself.

In short, HMOs need to be carefully monitored because the potential danger to the health and wellbeing of those living there is greater and outweighs the inconvenience caused to landlords.

It would be wise to consult your local authority about the regulations governing HMOs where you live as they can differ in each area.

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