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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Chaos ahead? 'Councils may not be ready for HMO change' warning

There’s less than a week to go to the introduction of new rules broadening the range of houses including in mandatory HMO licensing, and trade bodies are reminding agents and their landlord clients that it’s vital to fall in line. 

But one group - the National Landlords Association - is also concerned that councils may not be ready to issue licences by next Monday’s deadline.

From October 1 HMO licenses will be required by all properties that meet the following criteria:

- occupied by five or more persons;

- occupied by persons living in two or more separate households;

- meets the standard test under section 254(2) of the Act;

- the self-contained flat test under section 254(3) of the Act but is not a purpose-built flat situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats, or the converted building test under section 254(4) of the Act.

Properties that fall into scope of the new definition but are already licensed under a selective or additional scheme, will automatically be transferred to the new scheme at no cost to the landlord.

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association, says the government made the announcement about mandatory HMO licensing back in January, but he is concerned many buy to let investors may not yet be compliant. 

“It may be that landlords thought there was a six-month grace period, as was originally proposed. This is not the case and we don’t want to see anyone committing an offence through ignorance” he says.

The NLA is also concerned that local authorities are not prepared for, or are still unaware of, the mandatory licensing regime.

“We have been contacted by a number of our members who have tried to apply for licenses, but the local authority has purported not to know anything about it or simply didn’t have the systems in place to process the applications” continues Lambert.

“This is an unacceptable failing on the part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which should have ensured all local authorities were up to speed with the changes. It’s disappointing that more consideration hasn’t been made for the significance of this change and the challenges local authorities face in implementing it.

“Our advice to landlords who have encountered this is to apply for an HMO license using the existing process, even if the council hasn’t updated their forms.”

The guidance for local authorities on HMO and residential property reforms is available at gov.co.uk.

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