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Mandatory licensing

This content applies to England

An introduction to the mandatory licensing of HMOs.

The Housing Act 2004 introduces the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The Act also provides for licensing to be extended by a local authority to include HMOs not covered by mandatory licensing (see Additional licensing).

HMOs subject to mandatory licensing

The rules determining which HMOs are subject to mandatory licensing change on 1 October 2018. 'Occupant' is not defined in either the pre or post October 2018 rules and children of any age will contribute to the number of occupants.[1]

Mandatory licensing until 30 September 2018

Until 30 September 2018, mandatory licensing applies to HMOs on the following definitions:[2]

  • standard test
  • self-contained flat test
  • converted building test.

It will also apply where a building (or part of a building) is subject to an HMO declaration.

An HMO on one of the above definitions will have to be licensed if it comprises three or more storeys with five or more occupants forming two or more households.[3]

The word 'storey' is not defined in the legislation, but the following are to be included:[4]

  • basements and attics used or adapted for use as living accommodation
  • basements that contain the main entrance to the building
  • each storey of a business premises where the living accommodation is above or below business premises
  • a mezzanine level wholly or mainly used as living accommodation.

It is the storeys in the HMO that are counted, not the number of storeys of the building in which the HMO is located.[5] Floors, within the HMO, consisting of stairs, lobbies or hallways not used, wholly or partly, as living accommodation are not be counted as storeys.[6]

Mandatory licensing from 1 October 2018

From 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing applies to buildings defined as HMOs on the:[7]

  • standard test
  • self-contained flat test (unless it is a purpose built flat within a block comprising three self-contained flats or more)
  • converted building test.

Where a building (or part of a building) does not meet one of the above tests but is subject to an HMO declaration, it will not require a licence.

Licensing will be required where the HMO is occupied by five or more persons living in two or more separate households. There is no requirement as to the number of storeys.[8]

Where an HMO becomes subject to mandatory licensing on 1 October 2018

HMOs of one and two storeys are not subject to mandatory licensing before 1 October 2018. However:

  • the procedure for obtaining and the conditions for validity of a licence under additional licensing are similar to those under mandatory licencing.[9] Therefore, if an HMO was subject to these requirements and a licence had been obtained, this would satisfy the requirement to have a mandatory licence
  • where an HMO is subject to selective licensing before this date, and a licence has been obtained, it will be valid as if it were a mandatory licence until expiry.[10]

Exemptions

For information about buildings that are exempt from the licensing regime see Definition of HMO.

There are also certain temporary exceptions to the mandatory licensing regime; see Exception, revocation and variation.

Duty to implement licensing

Authorities must take all reasonable steps to secure that applications are made to them for HMO licences where appropriate and should be actively seeking applications for HMOs meeting the mandatory licensing criteria.[11] In addition, there is a general duty to ensure the effective implementation of mandatory (and additional) licensing.[12] Under this duty, authorities must ensure that all applications for licences are processed within a reasonable time and that there are no Part 1 functions that ought to be exercised (ie powers for addressing hazards under HHSRS).

Wales

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

[1] Paramaguru v Ealing LBC [2018] EWHC 373 (Admin)

[2] art 1 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 SI 2006/371.

[3] art.3 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 SI 2006/371.

[4] art 3(3) Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 SI 2006/371.

[5] Islington LBC v Unite Group plc [2013] EWHC 508 (Admin).

[6] Bristol CC v Digs (Bristol) Ltd [2014] EWHC 869 (Admin).

[7] art 4(c) Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 SI 2018/221.

[8] art 4 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 SI 2018/221.

[9] part 2, Housing Act 2004.

[10] art 5 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 SI 2018/221.

[11] s.61(4) Housing Act 2004; Houses in Multiple Occupation and Residential Property Licensing Reform: Guidance for Local Housing Authorities, MHCLG, June 2018.

[12] s.55 Housing Act 2004.

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