NO HMO licence – expect a big fine

A Catford landlord who failed to licence his HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) has been fined £7,000.

Following up concerns raised by Lewisham Council’s Planning Department, the Council’s Environmental Health Team paid a visit to the property, owned by landlord Charanjeet Singh, in July of last year.

The Environmental Health Team discovered that the three storey house, which has five rooms, was being occupied by ten tenants. On further inspection the team discovered that not only did the property have just one bathroom but there were no smoke alarms or fire doors and the landlord had not even applied for an HMO licence for the building.

All rental properties with three or more floors housing five or more tenants must, by law, have a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence and should undergo regular inspections by the Local Council to ensure the property’s health and safety standards meet the adequate levels.

Despite the council sending out regular correspondence to Mr. Singh, the dodgy landlord made no attempt to respond and so, six months after the initial inspection, the Council decided, in the interests of Mr. Singh’s tenants, to carry out a further inspection.

Shockingly the Council discovered that a further tenant now occupied the building, bringing the total number of occupants to 11 and yet still no action had been taken by Mr. Singh to rectify any of the breaches in fire safety or to obtain an HMO licence.

Legal proceedings against Mr. Singh took place at Greenwich Magistrates Court in March of this year and Singh was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £700 when he pleaded guilty to contravening section 72 of the Housing Act 2004.

Section 72 – Committing an offence due to failing to obtain a licence for a House in Multiple Occupation

A spokesperson for Lewisham Council stated that the Council are committed to working with private landlords to ensure the HMOs have the appropriate licensing and that they are fully aware of their duties and responsibilities as private landlords.

The aim of HMO licensing is to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of the tenants living in those properties and to eliminate the risks of overcrowding and unsafe living conditions.

Applying for an HMO Licence

 HMO licence forms can be obtained from the Local Council of the town or city where the property is situated and the licence generally lasts for five years, although this time period can be shortened if the Council feel it is necessary.

When a landlord applies for an HMO licence he will need to inform any other parties who have an interest in the property including the mortgage lender, if applicable, the property manager if he has one and any long leasehold tenants already occupying the property.

Once the Council receive the application they will need to inspect the property in question to ascertain a number of factors before the application can be processed and these factors will include:

  • The number of tenants who will be residing in the property
  • The facilities available in the HMO such as the kitchen, the bathroom and the number of toilets
  • Any property management arrangements the landlord will be putting in place

The Council will also need to be satisfied that the landlord is a suitable individual to hold the HMO licence. If, for some reason, the Council are not satisfied they will then ask for someone else to hold the HMO licence.

Obtaining the HMO Licence

Once the HMO licence has been obtained the landlord must ensure that he/she complies with all the conditions set out by his/her local Housing Authority and these conditions will include:

  • Obtaining an annual Gas Safety Certificate to verify all gas appliances within the HMO are safe and working properly
  • Installing smoke alarms and ensuring they work properly
  • Making sure all electrical equipment and wiring in the property is safe
  • Ensuring all furniture in the property which has been provided by the landlord is safe for use
  • Making sure the standard of the facilities within the property are adequate

The landlord will also need to give his/her tenants a copy of the statement of terms for the occupation of the HMO.

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May 24, 2012