A new licensing scheme introduced by the Kensington and Chelsea Council in London has generated significant interest amongst UK landlords. Over 300 landlords have applied for this additional licensing scheme, launched on June 1 2023 by the Conservative-controlled council. The Licensing scheme introduced by Kensington and Chelsea Council for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) goes beyond the national legal requirement. It applies to all privately rented properties with three or more occupants.
The criteria for obtaining a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license in the UK can vary slightly between different local authorities. However, there are certain general requirements that are commonly implemented. Kensington and Chelsea have gone further than some Councils have. The typical criteria for mandatory licencing of an HMO license in the UK is a property with three or more storeys and five or more occupants from two or more households. This test applies to both purpose-built and converted properties.
In Kensington and Chelsea, the requirements they have set are that a mandatory HMO license is required when five or more individuals from two or more households share communal facilities like a kitchen, bathroom, or WC. The council aims for a swift licensing process, with applications to be determined within three months.
1. Minimum room size: Each habitable room used for sleeping must meet a minimum size requirement set by the local authority. The exact dimensions can vary, but it is typically measured in square meters and depends on factors such as the number of occupants and the property's layout.
2. Amenities and facilities: The property must have suitable amenities and facilities for the number of occupants, such as adequate kitchen and bathroom facilities. There may be specific requirements for the number of toilets, sinks, and cooking facilities based on the number of occupants.
3. Fire safety measures: HMOs must meet fire safety standards, including the provision of fire alarms, fire doors, and fire extinguishers. The property may need to undergo regular fire safety checks and have an appropriate evacuation plan in place.
4. Health and safety standards: The property must meet certain health and safety requirements, such as having adequate heating, ventilation, and lighting. There may be guidelines on the provision of utilities like gas, electricity, and water.
5. Management and maintenance: The property owner or landlord must be considered "fit and proper" to hold an HMO license. They should have no criminal record or previous breaches of landlord or housing regulations. The landlord must also provide an up-to-date gas safety certificate (if applicable) and maintain the property in a good state of repair.
For landlords in Kensington and Chelsea, the cost of a five-year HMO license for an average-sized property can reach 1,600. An additional license fee of 1,290 per property is payable in two instalments.
In the Kensington & Chelsea HMO scheme accredited landlords and those using approved managing agents with relevant qualifications can benefit from a 200 discount. To secure a license under this scheme, the property should be suitable for the specified number of occupants. The intending license holder and the manager must meet specific fitness standards.
The scheme aims to improve housing standards and crack down on criminal landlords operating HMO accommodation (Houses in Multiple Occupation). The scheme also helps provide an added layer of protection for tenants by classifying licensed and responsible landlords. Thanks to this scheme, tenants can be sure of the legitimacy of the landlords they are dealing with. They can also look forward to staying in quality accommodation.
The council's research reveals approximately 2,400 privately rented HMO properties in the borough. Many of these homes have what is described as the most serious hazards." Many of these properties are poorly managed, and there have been several instances of anti-social behaviour. Since the scheme's introduction, 325 new license applications have been received by Kensington and Chelsea HMO Licencing Officers.
It is important to note that before this scheme's implementation, the council could only license around 185 properties under previous mandatory licensing rules.
Many from the council have welcomed the scheme. The general opinion is that everyone deserves a safe home, and they would prefer working with landlords with a good track record of providing quality accommodation. For Kensington and Chelsea HMO this new licensing scheme is proving effective in identifying responsible landlords. It will also make the job of the council officers easy as they can effortlessly and quickly identify properties where HMO landlords consistently offer poorly managed housing to their tenants. Based on their findings, the council can initiate appropriate enforcement actions.
The role of the council is to ensure safe housing within the borough. This new scheme serves as a clear message to landlords who fail to meet the required standards. The message is that the council will not tolerate substandard housing in Kensington and Chelsea. For HMOs it is essential to check the specific requirements of the local authority where the HMO is located, as there may be additional criteria or variations in different regions of the UK. The local council's housing department or website should provide you with detailed information on the specific licensing requirements for HMOs in that area.
The Ringley Group manage the South Kensington estate on behalf of the Wellcome Trust and have experience in supporting landlords who need HMO licenses, leaseholders with block management and offer a professional private rented sector let and manage service. Readers can speak to Rob Pratt to learn more. 0207 267 2900
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