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Legislation change could catch out HMO landlords

New government rules mean thousands of buy-to-let investors will be forced to become licensed HMO landlords from 1 October.

The Residential Landlords Association claims that this will result in a further 177,000 landlords being subject to mandatory licensing. It will also affect all existing HMO landlords, who will have to ensure their properties meet new minimum standards.

Brokers are being urged to familiarise themselves with the new requirements, and contact clients who could be affected. Those that do not apply for the appropriate paperwork from their local council could be subject to unlimited fines and other legal action.

Many may also have to pay for property renovations to qualify for the licence.

Currently, a licence is only required for properties with three or more storeys that are occupied by five (or more) people from at least two households. From 1 October this will be extended to all properties that are occupied by five or more people from two or more households – regardless of the size of the property.

Licences are issued by the local council and are valid for five years. Landlords will have to demonstrate they are ‘fit and proper’, and that the property meets all relevant safety standards. Evidence of certain safety certificates will have to be updated on an annual basis.

At the same time, the government will introduce new minimum room sizes for licensed HMOs. At the moment some local authorities prescribe minimum room sizes, while others set out advisory standards.

Mortgages for Business chief executive David Whittaker says: “Many landlords will be unaware of these changes. They have been hit with a triple whammy of changes in recent years, so it is up to brokers to help explain how this latest regulatory change will affect them.”

He also pointed out that these minimum room standards may cause some problems for existing HMO landlords.

Mortgage Advice Bureau head of lending Brian Murphy says: “As an industry it is important that we have the right resources in place, with advisers equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to help their customers.”

Coreco director Andrew Montlake says: “Whilst many of us understand why these changes have been instigated the quick timing between them means that landlords have had no respite in which to fully deal with them. We now need a period of calm to let this all bed in.”

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