Landlords operating houses in multiple occupation are being warned that they need to be licensed. Failure to do so could result in a criminal record and a fine of up to £20,000. Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are premises in which tenants share parts of the accommodation (kitchens, bathrooms, toilets or simply the hallway or stairs) with people who are not part of the same household. The definition includes residential accommodation shared by staff who work in restaurants, public houses, takeaways and in agriculture.
In April 2006, the Government introduced compulsory licensing of larger, higher-risk Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) as part of the Housing Act 2004. These are those HMOs that consist of three storeys or more and contain at least five occupiers.
- Properties are required to have a licence if they have the following:
- three or more floors, including habitable basements and attics
- five or more occupants, including children
- two or more households
- shared amenities such as a bathroom, kitchen or toilet.
Until now, Epping Forest District Council has given private landlords a considerable period of grace so they could apply for an HMO licence. However, landlords who do not apply for a licence could be committing a criminal offence and face prosecution. Any rent paid on an unlicensed property might be recoverable through legal action.
Any tenant who believes that they are living in an HMO that requires licensing should also contact the Council – any information received will be treated in strict confidence. Upon application, a visit will be made to every licensable property to verify the details submitted in the application. Environmental Health Officers will inspect every licensed property to identify any hazards which pose a risk to the health and safety of the occupiers and take the relevant action to ensure that the property meets the criteria.
Any landlords who have not made a licensing application and believe they own a property which may be licensable should contact Epping Forest Council on 01992 564000 immediately and ask for the Private Sector Housing Team.
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