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Birmingham City Council

FAQ Housing in Multiple Occupation licensing

What do you mean by ‘housing in multiple occupation licensing’?
A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), is a building, or part of a building (e.g a flat) that is occupied by more than one household, and that:

  • shares or lacks an amenity, such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities, OR
  • is a converted building which may contain, but is not entirely, made up of self-contained flats, e.g. floor-by-floor lets, OR
  • is converted into self contained flats, but does not meet as a minimum standard the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations, and at least one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

These Frequently Asked Questions explain the legislation that applies if you own a property that you intend to rent to multiple tenants, or if you are moving into a property with multiple occupants.

Please note: there are three types of licensing for the private rented sector – mandatory HMO licensing, additional HMO licensing and selective licensing of all private rented property in a neighbourhood. These Frequently Asked Questions relate specifically to mandatory HMO licensing.

GENERAL

What is a household?
What counts as a self contained unit of accommodation?
Why has HMO licensing been introduced?
Why is the government only targeting HMOs for licensing?
Don't councils already deal with HMOs?
How are you informing landlords of the need to be licensed?

LANDLORDS

Which HMOs need a licence?
What if I own more than one property?
When do I have to apply for a licence by?
How much will a licence cost?
How do I apply for a licence?
What evidence do I need to provide with my licence application?
How long will the application process take?
Who holds the property licence?
What criteria must I meet in order to be granted a licence?
Will there be on-site inspections?
What happens if I fail to register for a licence?
How long is the licence valid for?
What conditions can the council impose when issuing my licence?
Can the council refuse to issue me with a licence?
Can I appeal if my licence application has been refused?
What if I am changing the house so that it is no longer an HMO?


TENANTS

I don’t think my landlord has a HMO licence. What do I do?
I live in a HMO but my landlord is refusing to make repairs to the property. What do I do?

OTHER

What are you doing to find landlords who have not licensed their HMOs?
Can I become more involved in helping to monitor your HMO licensing service?
How else can I share my views on your HMO licensing service?
Who do I ask if I have any more questions about HMO licensing?

GENERAL

What is a household?

  • A single person living alone (without partners / relatives – three friends sharing would be considered as three households.)
  • Couples – married, unmarried or in same-sex relationships.
  • Relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children and step-children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins. Half-relatives and foster parents/children are treated as full relatives.
  • Any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person who they are working for.

What counts as a self contained unit of accommodation?
A unit is one which has inside it a kitchen / cooking area, bathroom and toilet for exclusive use of the household living there. If any of these facilities are outside the unit, it isn't self contained.

Why has HMO licensing been introduced?
To raise standards for tenants in the private rented property sector, and ensure that landlords are managing HMOs to the required standards.

Landlords can benefit from having support from the council to manage their properties more effectively. It also reduces unfair competition from landlords who undercut their rents but offer poor quality accommdation. Having a licence can also help if disputes with tenants arise, because it confirms the quality of the accommodation.

Why is the government only targeting HMOs for licensing?
There are some common problems associated with HMOs, including poor fire safety standards, overcrowding, inadequate facilities and poor or unscrupulous management. Mandatory licensing is designed to tackle these problems.

Don't councils already deal with HMOs?
Local authorities have always had powers to request that work is carried out to make sure that HMOs are adequate and safe. However, introducing mandatory licensing will close loopholes for rogue landlords who don't properly manage or maintain their property.


How are you informing landlords of the need to be licensed?
Alongside a national publicity campaign, we are also running publicity at a local level and writing to all landlords we believe may have licensable HMOs.


LANDLORDS

Which HMOs need a licence?
Under the national mandatory licensing scheme a HMO must be licensed if it has:

  • Three or more storeys, and
  • Five or more tenants in two or more households, and
  • Shared facilities such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet.</ li>

To work out how many storeys there are in your property, you need to include:

  • Basements and attics if they are occupied, have been converted for occupation or are in use by residents
  • Any storeys which are occupied by you and your family if you are a resident landlord
  • All the storeys in residential occupation, even if they are self-contained
  • Any business premises or storage space on the ground floor or any upper floor.

You don't need to count basements used for business or storage unless the basement is the only, or main, entrance to the HMO from the street.

What if I own more than one property?
A separate licence is needed for each property.

When do I have to apply for a licence by?
Mandatory HMO licensing came into force on 6 April 2006. There will be a 'grace period' of three months after you begin renting out your HMO. After 6 July landlords could be fined up to £20,000 if they have failed to apply for a licence.

How much will a licence cost?
Each local authority can set fees at their own discretion, but they must reflect the actual costs to the local authority of HMO licensing. Birmingham City Council’s licence fees can be viewed online.

How do I apply for a licence?
See our HMO licensing application page – you can apply online or by post.

What evidence do I need to provide with my licence application?
When you submit your form, you also need to provide the appropriate licence fee, along with:

  • A valid current gas safety certificate, which is renewed annually
  • Proof that all electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • Proof that all smoke alarms are correctly positioned and installed
  • A written statement for each occupier of the terms on which they occupy the property, e.g. a tenancy agreement.

How long will the application process take?
The council aims to process valid applications – accompanied by the correct fee and all required attachments – within eight weeks. The length of the application process will depend on a number of factors. The property may need to be inspected for the council to be satisfied that it is suitable for licensing.

Who holds the property licence?
The landlord can hold the licence or nominate someone else such as a manager or agent (with their agreement) to be the licence holder. The licence must be held by most appropriate "fit and proper" person. In determining whether a licence holder is “fit and proper”, we will consider:

  • Any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud.
  • Whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues.
  • Whether the person has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination.
  • Whether the person has previously managed HMOs that have broken any approved code of practice.
It is advisable for the landlord or manager to be a member of a professionally recognised body, such as the Association of Midland Landlords, National Federation of Residential Landlords, or Residential Landlords Association.
If you are a member of a Landlords Association that is recognised by the council then you will also be eligible for a discount.

What criteria must I meet in order to be granted a licence?
To grant you a licence, we must be satisfied that:

  • The proposed licence holder and any manager of the property is a fit and proper person
  • The proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • Proper management standards are being applied at the property
  • The HMO is reasonably suitable, or can be made suitable, for occupation by the number of tenants allowed under the licence with at least the minimum prescribed standards of amenities and facilities. These include the number, type and quality of shared bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities.

The licensing application form contains questions which will enable the licensing team to decide whether or not the landlord and the property meet the criteria and can be given a licence.

Will there be on-site inspections?
The council does not have to inspect the property before granting a licence but in some cases an inspection could be necessary. The licensing team will prioritise properties for inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, based on the potential hazards that your property poses. We will send you more information on this when your licence(s) has been issued. For information about this process read "Reducing the Risks", produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.


What happens if I fail to register for a licence?
Failure to apply for a licence is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £20,000. In certain cases, rent from housing benefit or from a tenant can be reclaimed if a landlord is operating without a licence.

It is an offence to break any of your licence conditions, including allowing the property to be occupied by more people than are permitted under the licence. This can result in a fine of up to £5,000.

How long is the licence valid for?
An HMO licence will normally last for up to five years. However, if we have any concerns about your property, the licence may be issued for a shorter period.

What conditions can the council impose when issuing my licence?
We will insist on certain minimum standards a condition of granting a licence:

  • The property must be fitted with a fire detection and early warning system, and may require emergency lighting (the type of system and lighting will depend upon how the property will be occupied).
  • Certain doors will need to be ½ hour fire resisting. They will need to be fitted with self closing devices and may need to have certain types of locks.
  • There must be sufficient WCs, wash hand basins and baths/showers for the number of residents
  • There must be adequate kitchen facilities for the number of residents
  • The landlord will need to provide up-to-date certificates to confirm gas and electrical safety
We may apply the following conditions:
  • Restrictions on the use of parts of the HMO by occupants.
  • The landlord or manager must take steps to deal with the behaviour of occupants or visitors.
  • The condition of the property and its contents, such as furniture and bathroom and toilet facilities, must be acceptable.
  • Specified works or repairs must be completed within a particular timeframe.
  • A responsible person must attend an approved training course.

Can the council refuse to issue me with a licence?
Yes, if we decide you are not a fit and proper person or the property does not meet the conditions set out above, and there is no reasonable prospect of appointing an alternative licence holder or bringing the property up to standard within an acceptable time period.

In this situation, the council has a duty to issue an Interim Management Order (IMO). This allows it to step in and manage the property, including collecting the rent. This order can last for a year, until suitable permanent arrangements can be made. If the IMO expires and there is no likelihood of a positive change in the circumstances, then the council can issue a Final Management Order. This removes the property from the control of the owner for a period of up to five years and can be renewed.

Can I appeal if my licence application has been refused?
You may appeal if the council decides to refuse your licence, grant a licence with additional conditions, revoke your licence, vary your licence or refuse to vary your licence. You must appeal to the Residential Property Tribunal, normally within 28 days.

What if I am changing the house so that it is no longer an HMO?
If you can give clear evidence that you are no longer operating a HMO, you can apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice. This lasts for a maximum of three months and ensures that a property in the process of being converted from an HMO does not need to be licensed.

If the situation is not resolved, then a second Temporary Exemption Notice can be issued. When this runs out the property must either be licensed or have ceased to be an HMO, otherwise an Interim Management Order will be issued.


TENANTS

I don’t think my landlord has a HMO licence. What do I do?
Please telephone our HMO Licensing Team on 0121 303 4009, or email: prs@birmingham.gov.uk.

I live in a HMO but my landlord is refusing to make repairs to the property. What do I do?
Please telephone our HMO Licensing Team on 0121 303 4009, or email: prs@birmingham.gov.uk

OTHER

What are you doing to find landlords who have not licensed their HMOs?
Birmingham City Council is using a number of methods to find unlicensed HMOs and to encourage landlords to license their properties. These include:

  • Distributing press releases about the law on licensing in publications aimed at landlords.
  • Publicising the results of successful prosecutions of landlords of unlicensed HMOs.
  • Providing information and advice leaflets to tenants in suspected unlicensed HMOs.
  • Working with the National Landlord Association and local landlord groups.
  • Street-by-street surveys of private rented houses with three or more storeys.
  • Checking records, including Council Tax, Housing Benefits, Electoral Register etc.

To report an unlicensed HMO, please telephone us on 0121 303 4009.

Can I become more involved in helping to monitor your HMO licensing service?
Yes you can – we value feedback from customers as it helps us to improve and develop our services. If you would like to take part in any consultation, please telephone us on 0121 303 4009.

How else can I share my views on your HMO licensing service?
Please email your comments to prs@birmingham.gov.uk, or send a letter to Private Rented Services, PO Box 16589, Birmingham, B2 2JB.

Who do I ask if I have any more questions about HMO licensing?
You can telephone our HMO Licensing Team on 0121 303 4009, or email: prs@birmingham.gov.uk.

Please also refer to our Licensing Guide for Landlords.