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Legal Protection for HMOs and Tenant Rights

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legal protection for hmos and tenant rights

This article is currently under review due to feedback

In this article

• HMO legal protection – the specifics of the legislation.
• HMO tenants rights – what rights do HMO tenants have and how do these differ from regular private tenants.

Introduction

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is essentially any property where there are two or more households made up of three or more unrelated tenants and facilities such as a kitchen or bathroom are shared. (For more information on ‘What Is an HMO?’ take a look at our helpful blog on the subject here).

With a good landlord, HMOs are safe, functioning structures that allow numerous people to share the same building – and as a result they can be much cheaper for tenants. However, they can be overcrowded and, historically, some landlords have taken the opportunity to provide accommodation for large numbers of people, without ensuring proper maintenance and safety of the property. This is why HMOs are subject to specific legal protection.

What legal protection do HMOs have?

The Housing Act 2004 sets out the definition of an HMO, as well as providing tenants with protection via licensing requirements. This legislation also allows a council to step in where an HMO poses a hazard, such as the risk of fire, and the local authority can even take control of an HMO where there is a serious risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of the occupants.

The HMO management regulations place a duty on landlords to provide additional safety and maintenance measures. These include:

– Providing waste disposal facilities
– Maintaining the property
– Carrying out an electrical inspection at the property at least once every five years
– Maintaining the fire alarms at the property ensuring that there is a means of escape that is kept obstacle free and storing firefighting equipment at the property for use in the event of a fire

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that anyone who exerts a degree of control over an HMO must take reasonable steps to reduce fire risks and must also make sure that in the event of a fire there is a way for everyone in the property to escape safely.

HMO tenant rights

HMO tenants have the right to ensure that a landlord meets the legal expectations, as set out above. In addition, HMO tenants have the same rights and responsibilities as other private tenants, including:

– In most situations, the right to have the deposit protected and returned at the end of the tenancy
– The right to live in a property that has been well maintained and which is safe
– The right to live in the property without nuisance from the landlord
– The right to challenge charges that appear excessive
– The right to protection from eviction

One area where HMO tenants’ rights differ is that of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Whilst there has been considerable confusion about this, it is now widely assumed that for those HMO properties where there are individual tenancy agreements and shared facilities the landlord is not required to provide an EPC, as would be the case for a property where there was only one tenancy agreement. In a mixed property, with both shared and self-contained units, the landlord is only required to provide an EPC for those units that are wholly self-contained.

It is also worth bearing in mind that it is normal for the owner of an HMO to pay the council tax, rather than the occupiers.

Where to go for help and advice

If you want to complain about a landlord who you don’t feel is meeting the requirements set out by the legislation for HMOs then you should contact your local authority. If you are simply looking for some support and guidance then the charity Shelter and the Citizens Advice Bureau are useful options.

In summary

HMO landlords must, by law, ensure that the building is properly maintained and that it is safe.

Where a property is an HMO there are more extensive requirements to deal with the risk of fire than with a non-HMO property, including ensuring that the building has working smoke alarms.

HMO tenants have the same rights as other private tenants – being a tenant in an HMO does not deprive you of any of these rights.

This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.
The Tenants’ Voice advises that Tenants act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to a tenancy but if you suspect you are experiencing an infringement of your rights that you seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter https://www.shelter.org.uk/ 0808 800 4444

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