Landlords face tough new regime for tenant protection

(November 2018) Landlords could face high fines if they are not up to date with the latest legislation designed to protect tenants.

The new rules include revised criteria for mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupations, known as HMOs, which will see 160,000 more properties having to be licensed. There is also a change to Section 21 eviction requirements for tenants on older leases, and a ‘rogue landlord’ database has gone live. The changes follow hard on the heels of the energy performance requirements introduced in April.

An HMO must satisfy special requirements regarding fire and general safety, utility supplies and management of communal areas. Under the extended regulations for mandatory licensing, buildings of less than three storeys may now be classified as an HMO, if they house five people or more in two or more separate households with shared kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.

There are also strict new requirements on bedroom sizes in HMOs, related to the age and number of people using the room.

  • One child under 10 years must have a minimum of 4.64m²
  • Anyone over 10 years must have a minimum of 6.51m²
  • Two people over 10 years sharing a room must have a minimum of 10.22m²

Additionally, any room that is smaller than 4.64m² must be reported to the local housing authority, irrespective of its purpose.

Property law expert, Roland Pingree, explains “This is a move designed to protect vulnerable tenants who are most likely to be drawn into HMO accommodation, as they are typically cheaper than other private rental options. However, it will affect anyone letting a property that falls within the new rules, even if they’re doing the best they can for their tenants. A lot of properties, such as small student lets, are now caught in the HMO category, and if landlords didn’t take steps to register before 1st October, they are likely to be renting the property out illegally which could result in an unlimited fine. They also need to take the necessary steps towards compliance within the property”.

Other new requirements from October 2018 include changes to Section 21 eviction notices for tenancies that were created before October 2015, to bring them in line with rules introduced under the Deregulation Act 2015. These require landlords issuing Section 21 eviction notices to give at least two months’ notice to any tenant on an assured shorthold tenancy or periodic tenancy; also a Section 21 notice cannot be issued during the first four months of an assured shorthold tenancy and the notice is only valid for six months from the date it is given, after which a new notice must be issued.

Changes to energy efficiency measures requiring Energy Performance Certificates were introduced earlier this year. The rules mean that properties provided under new tenancies and renewals need to be rated E or above on their Energy Performance Certificates, or landlords could face fines of up to £5,000. The requirement will be extended to existing lets from 1st April 2020.

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

For further assistance please contact Roland Pingree on 020 8939 4000.

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