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Welcome to Bury Council's Landlord's Guide to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licensing in the private rented sector. The purpose of the guide is to provide landlords with the information they need, to understand the licensing laws and to explain what they will need to do to obtain a licence.

The guide also outlines how the Council will approach determining licence applications, the type of conditions which may be placed on licences, together with the sanctions and rights of appeal in the legislation.

Bury's approach

The Council recognises the valuable role that private landlords play in providing good quality accommodation and satisfying housing need in Bury.

Although licensing has been introduced to comply with the mandatory requirements of the Housing Act 2004, it is hoped that it will play a part in improving standards and encouraging best practice across the private rented sector.

Our approach will be to inform, encourage and enable as many landlords as possible to achieve the required standards. The Council will work closely with the affected landlords to ensure that they meet their statutory obligations with a minimum of inconvenience. Sanctions will only be applied as a last resort if a landlord fails to comply after reasonable requests to do so have been made by the Council.

The Council also provides the following services for landlords:

  • Technical advice on such matters as condensation and fire precautions
  • Clarification of statutory duties in relation to HMOs, disrepair, gas safety and so on.

The Housing Act 2004

The Act introduces three distinct licensing schemes:

  • Mandatory licensing of certain high risk houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). This is a national scheme and is limited to three storey properties where five or more persons who form two or more households share amenities such as a kitchen or a bathroom. In practice this will cover three storey hostels, bedsits and shared houses with the appropriate level of occupancy. Please note that properties converted into self-contained flats are excluded from the scheme
  • Additional licensing - an authority can seek approval from the Secretary of State to licence other categories of HMO if there is a particular problem in their area
  • Selective licensing - an authority can seek approval from the Secretary of State to licence all rented property in a defined area. This is aimed at areas of low demand with major housing concerns, absentee landlords or anti-social behaviour.

At present, Bury is only implementing the mandatory scheme.

Checking if a licence is required

How do I know if my property is a HMO which is subject to mandatory licensing?

Firstly you need check if your property is one of the following:

  • an entire house or flat which is occupied by 5 or more persons, who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. (You will find the definition of a household in this guidance)
  • a house which has been converted into bedsit or other non-self-contained accommodation and may include one or more self-contained flats and which is occupied by 5 or more persons, who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained (each flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 5 or more persons who form two or more households.

In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the occupants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house those occupants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

Is a block of flats an HMO?

A purpose built block of flats is not an HMO. However, an individual flat within it might be if it is occupied by 3 or more persons (at least one of whom is unrelated). The flat will only be subject to mandatory licensing if it is let by 5 or more persons.

A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats is an HMO if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies. These are known as section 257 HMO and are not subject to mandatory licensing.

What counts as a self-contained unit of accommodation?

A self-contained unit is one which has inside it a kitchen (or cooking area), bathroom and toilet for the exclusive use of the household living in the unit.

If the occupiers need to leave the unit to gain access to any one of these amenities, that unit is not self-contained.

Are there exceptions to the definition of HMOs?

Certain types of properties are not classed as HMOs for the purpose of Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 (other than for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System) and as a result, are not subject to licensing, these include:

  • a two person flat share: a property, or part of a property, occupied by no more than two 'households' each of which consists of just one person
  • a property where the landlord and his household is resident with up to 2 tenants
  • buildings occupied entirely by freeholders or long leaseholders
  • buildings managed or owned by a public body (such as the police or the NHS), a local housing authority or a registered social landlord
  • a building where the residential accommodation is ancillary to the main use of the building, for example, religious buildings, conference centres etc
  • buildings which are already regulated (and where the description of the building is specified in regulations), such as care homes, bail hostels etc. (however, domestic refuges are not exempt).

What is meant by a household?

The following are 'households' for the purposes of the Housing Act 2004. Members of the same family living together including:

  • couples married to each other or living together as husband and wife (or in an equivalent relationship in the case of persons of the same sex)
  • relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children (and step-children), grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, or cousins
  • half-relatives will be treated as full relatives. A foster child living with his foster parent is treated as living in the same household as his foster parent.

Any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person for whom they are working. As a result:

  • three friends, colleagues or students sharing together are considered to be three households
  • a couple sharing with a third person would count as two households
  • a family renting a property would be a single household. If that family had an au-pair to look after their children that person would be included in their household.

When counting the numbers of individual tenants, children and infants each count as one individual.

Obtaining a licence

Having decided that your property does fall under the Mandatory HMO Licensing Scheme, you will need to complete the online application form for a HMO licence.

There are three different standards the applicant must meet in order to obtain a licence, these are:

  • the licence holder must be a 'fit and proper person' to hold the licence
  • the licence holder has satisfactory management arrangements in place
  • each individual property (and associated items) must meet Bury Councils Housing in Multiple Occupation licensing conditions.

The Local Authority must ensure that:

  • the most appropriate person holds the Licence
  • anyone concerned in the management of the property is a 'fit and proper person'
  • satisfactory management arrangements are in place
  • the property meets the required minimum standards for the number of persons in occupation.

The application is divided into separate parts covering each of the statutory requirements:

  • Applicants will be asked to provide details about;
    • themselves
    • their associates
    • their managers and agents
    • other persons connected with the ownership or management of their premises
  • Managers or Managing Agents will be asked to provide details about;
    • themselves
    • their associates
    • their managers and agents
    • other persons connected with the ownership or management of their premises
  • Applicants (and/or their agents) will be asked to provide details about;
    • how their tenancies and lettings are managed
    • how their property is maintained
  • Applicants (and / or their agents) will be asked to provide details about;
    • the condition of the individual properties
    • the facilities provided
    • the fire safety precautions in place
    • the numbers of persons in occupation
    • gas and electrical safety
    • other standards relating to HMOs in Bury.