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HMO licence applications

This content applies to England

The process of applying for an HMO licence .

Requirements for applications

Initial and renewal applications for licences must contain information specified by regulations, but there are no prescribed forms.[1]

Where the application is submitted by a person other than the proposed licence holder (such as a managing agent), the applicant should serve a notice (or a copy of the application) on all 'relevant persons' that they have submitted the application. Relevant persons include the landlord, a leaseholder, a mortgagee, the proposed licence holder, and the proposed managing agent, but exclude a tenant with an unexpired term of three years or fewer.

Initial applications

An application for a licence submitted for the first time must include the following information:

  • statement explaining the need to inform in writing all those with an interest in the property and details of all those who have been informed of the application
  • contact details of applicant, proposed licence holder, manager, person having control and any other person who has agreed to be bound by the conditions in the licence
  • address of property
  • age band of the property
  • category of HMO
  • details of other licensed properties with same licence holder
  • information on HMO, including:[2]
  • number of storeys
  • number of separate units
  • numbers of rooms of various categories
  • numbers of households and people
  • details about certain safety precautions, eg fire escapes and gas appliances
  • details of any building works carried out on property.

When applying for a licence for a 'section 257 HMO' (see the Definition of HMO page for details), the application must include the following information about the HMO:[3]

  • number of storeys and the levels they are on
  • number of self contained flats, including how many of these self contained flats are subject to a lease of over 21 years, and
  • in relation to the flats that are not owner-occupied, details about certain safety precautions, including fire safety, gas safety, and safety of any furniture provided.

Renewal applications

Application for renewal of a licence submitted on or after 10 September 2012, must include only:[4]

  • statement explaining the need to inform in writing all those with an interest in the property and details of all those who have been informed of the application
  • contact details of applicant, proposed licence holder, manager, person having control and any other person who has agreed to be bound by the conditions in the licence, and
  • address of property.

Information about the licence holder

All applications must also include the following information about any person who will be involved in the management of the property:

  • information on any relevant unspent convictions or findings with respect to unlawful discrimination and details of any contravention of any enactment dealing with housing, public health or environmental health that led to an adverse judgment
  • information about any property that have been subject to a control order in the last five years or that has been subject to enforcement under Part 1 Housing Act 2004
  • information about any properties for which the applicant has a licence refused or revoked
  • information about any property that has been subject to an interim, Special Interim or Final Management Order.

It is an offence knowingly or recklessly to provide misleading or false information.

Fees

Local authorities have the power to set fees and the appropriate fee should accompany the application.[5]

Letting and managing a HMO is a service for purposes of the EU Directive 2006/123/EC and the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 SI 2009/2999, and the HMO licensing scheme is an ‘authorisation scheme’ for the purposes of the Directive and Regulations. As such, the fee that can be charged for applying for or renewing a licence is limited to the cost of processing the application. A fee which was based on the cost of running the scheme as a whole, including enforcement, was held to be unlawful.[6]

Grant or refusal of licence

Applications should be processed within a reasonable amount of time. [7] The law specifies no fixed time limit, but it is recommended that straightforward applications should be dealt with between four and six weeks of receipt.

In granting the licence the local authority must be satisfied as to the following matters:[8]

  • the house is reasonably suitable for occupation by no more than the maximum number in the application (or the number determined by the local authority) or can be made suitable
  • the proposed licence holder is a 'fit and proper person' and the most appropriate person to be granted a licence
  • the proposed manager is the person having control, or is an agent or employee of the person having control and is a 'fit and proper person'
  • the proposed management arrangements are satisfactory.

In relation to a section 257 HMO (see the page on Definition of HMO), when deciding if the proposed license holder is a 'fit and proper person' to be the license holder, the local authority must consider if that person has control of the HMO and the extent to which he has control over it. [9]

Before granting a licence the local authority must serve a notice, with a copy of the proposed licence, on the applicant and every relevant person and consider any representations made in the consultation period, which must be at least 14 days.[10] Where after considering the representations, the local authority modifies the proposed licence substantially, there is a further seven-day consultation period.

Similar notification provisions apply if it is proposed to refuse the application. Appeals against the decision should be made to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) within 28 days of the date of the notice of the decision.[11]

A licence comes into force on the specified date, relates to one HMO only and lasts for such period as the local authority determines but no longer than five years.[12]

A HMO licence is non-transferable, meaning that if the property is sold, the new owner cannot rely on an existing licence to satisfy the licensing requirements.[13] If the new owner 'duly' applies for a licence, it may provide her/him with a defence to criminal charges.[14]

Suitability tests

In deciding whether to grant or refuse an application the local authority must assess the suitability of the property to serve as an HMO and the suitability of the manager and licence holder of the property.

Suitability of the property

Before granting a licence, the local authority must be satisfied that the property meets the prescribed standards to be suitable for occupation by the proposed number of people (either the number on the application or a number specified by the local authority), or that the property can be made suitable by the imposition of certain conditions in the licence.[15]

The prescribed standards relate to:[16]

  • the number and suitability of the bathing and toilet facilities (where shared) and the provision of wash hand basins in individual rooms
  • the suitability of the kitchen facilities for the number of people sharing them, and
  • the provision of fire safety facilities and equipment.

The local authority has the power to decide that a HMO it is not reasonably suitable for the proposed number of occupiers even if it meets the prescribed standards. It can issue guidance as to the standards it will normally expect to be met, for example in relation to bedroom size. However, it cannot impose additional mandatory standards which would fetter its discretion when considering the merits of a particular application.[17]

Section 257 HMOs

For section 257 HMOs, the local authority must satisfied that the common parts of the HMO or any flat within the HMO (other than a flat let on a long lease) meet the prescribed standards.[18] The standards in the regulations relate to the same amenities as for standard HMOs (see above), but the facilities must be adequate for exclusive use by an individual household rather than for shared use.[19]

If a house becomes a section 257 HMO as a result of conversion works carried out on the house after 1 October 2007, any flat within that HMO to which a long lease was granted after that date will be treated by the local authority as having no such lease unless:[20]

  • the local authority is satisfied that the appropriate building standards have been met in relation to that flat, or
  • the local authority is satisfied that the lease has been granted by a person other than the freeholder or head lessor of the whole of the HMO.

Suitability of persons and management arrangements

In deciding whether a person is 'fit and proper' to be a licence holder or the manager of an HMO, the local authority must have regard to any evidence available that the person has:[21]

  • committed any offences involving fraud, other dishonesty, violence, drugs, or any sexual offence that attracts notification requirements
  • practised unlawful discrimination e.g. on grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origin or disability
  • contravened any provision under housing or landlord and tenant law
  • acted other than in accordance with any code of practice approved under section 233 of Housing Act 2004.

To be taken into account, a wrongdoing must be relevant to the person's fitness to hold a licence and/or manage the property in question. When considering criminal offences, the local authority must only have regard to unspent convictions.

Evidence can include that any person associated, or formerly associated, with the proposed licence holder or manager, has done any of the things listed above and it appears to the local authority that this is relevant to the question whether the proposed licence holder, or manager, is a fit and proper person.

The local authority must assume that unless there is evidence to the contrary that the person having control of the house is a more appropriate person to be the licence holder that a person without control of it.[22]

In deciding whether there are satisfactory management arrangements, the local authority must have regard to:[23]

  • whether any person to be involved in the management of the HMO is sufficiently competent
  • whether any person to be involved in the management (in addition to the manager) is a 'fit and proper person'
  • whether management structures and funding arrangements are suitable.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.63 Housing Act 2004; reg.7 and Sch.2 Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and other houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/373.

[2] para 2 Sch.2 Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and other houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/373.

[3] reg 12 Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions)(England) Regulations 2007 SI 2007/1903.

[4] reg.7 Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/373, as amended by Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2012 SI 2012/2111.

[5] s.63 Housing Act 2004.

[6] R (on the application of Gaskin) v Richmond upon Thames LBC [2018] EWHC 1996 (Admin); Hemming (t/a Simply Pleasure Ltd)) v Westminster CC [2016] EUECJ C-316/15.

[7] s.55(5)(b) Housing Act 2004.

[8] s.64 Housing Act 2004.

[9] reg 4 Houses in Multiple Occupation (Certain Converted Blocks of Flats)(Modifications to the Housing Act 2004 and Transitional Provisions for section 257 HMOs) (England) Regulations 2007 SI 2007/1904.

[10] Sch.5 Housing Act 2004.

[11] Part 3 Sch.5 Housing Act 2004, as amended.

[12] s.68 Housing Act 2004.

[13] s.68(6) Housing Act 2004; Georgie Kathleen Taylor v Mina An Ltd [2019] UKUT 249 (LC).

[14] s.72(4) Housing Act 2004.

[15] s.65 Housing Act 2004.

[16] reg 8 and Sch.3 Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and other houses)(Miscellaneous Provisions)(England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/373.

[17] s.65(2) Housing Act 2004; Clark v Manchester CC [2015] UKUT 129 (LC).

[18] reg 5 Houses in Multiple Occupation (Certain Converted Blocks of Flats) (Modifications to the Housing Act 2004 and Transitional Provisions for section 257 HMOs) (England) Regulations 2007 SI 2007/1904.

[19] reg 12 Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007 SI 2007/1903.

[20] reg 5 Houses in Multiple Occupation (Certain Converted Blocks of Flats) (Modifications to the Housing Act 2004 and Transitional Provisions for section 257 HMOs) (England) Regulations 2007 SI 2007/1904.

[21] s.66 Housing Act 2004.

[22] s.66(4) Housing Act 2004.

[23] s.66(6) Housing Act 2004.

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