Houses in Multiple Occupation

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1 Houses in Multiple Occupation

2 Houses in Multiple Occupation Foreword This document has been created to both encourage and advise landlords, property owners and agencies to understand the Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) definition and the interface with applicable legislation and regulations. In the past the legislation applied through the Fire Authority, Environmental Health and Building Control has introduced some differences in the interpretation and application of the various requirements. This document is aimed at helping to avoid future misunderstanding. It is hoped that with a better understanding landlords will seek advice before carrying out any alteration or improvements to their properties. 2 As a Landlord and past President of Dorset Residential Landlords, I am fully aware that many landlords are frustrated by the mass of regulation and, in some cases, what appears to be over-regulation. I would, however, encourage landlords to seek the necessary advice before commencing works. The danger of non-compliance in today s marketplace could lead to severe penalties and of course the equally scary Duty of Care, which potentially holds even greater legal implications. Alex Law 1. Introduction There is a considerable amount of interaction between the requirements of the Building Regulations, Planning Acts and other legislation. Guidance provided by the Department of Communities & Local Government indicates that licensing of HMOs is typically overseen by Local Authority Housing Services / Departments, who may require additional precautions over and above those required by the Building Regulations. Houses in Multiple Occupation

3 Technical guidance on the assessment of hazards from fire and preventative measures for HMOs is contained in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System Operating Guide (issued February 2006 ISBN: ). Further information/guidance regarding fire safety can be obtained from the LACORS document: Housing Fire Safety, guidance on the fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing, (issued July 2008 ISBN ). 2. Housing Act 2004 This document provides some specific definitions that are used through the licensing process What is an HMO? The Housing Act 2004 redefines the definition of an HMO to include a building, or part of a building, such as a flat, that: Is occupied by more than one household and where more than one household shares or lacks an amenity, such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities Is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building but not entirely self-contained flats (whether or not some amenities are shared or lacking) Is converted self-contained flats, but does not meet as a minimum standard the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations, and at least two thirds of the flats are occupied under short tenancies. 3 The building is occupied by two or more households: As their only or main residence As a refuge for people escaping domestic violence By students during term time For other purposes prescribed by the government

4 A household is: Blood related families and co-habiting couples. Other relationships, such as foster families, carers and domestic staff. Mandatory licensing The Housing Act 2004 requires that properties meeting the criteria below must be licensed: Three or more storeys high and Has five or more people, forming two or more households, and An amenity such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities is shared. Exemptions to the HMO definition and licensing 4 The following buildings will be exempt, irrespective of whether they meet the mandatory licensing conditions: Those managed or controlled by Registered Social Landlords and other public sector bodies. Those that are regulated under other legislation and prescribed as exempt. Certain buildings occupied by religious communities. Buildings occupied by freeholders and long leaseholders with less than 1/3rd short tenancies that are not defined as converted blocks. Buildings occupied by no more that two persons Buildings managed by universities for the occupation of students are also exempt if the university is so specified as exempt in the regulations. 3. Planning Act A House in Multiple Occupation may require approval under a variety of differing legislations. A property may be considered an HMO for the purpose of one type of legislation but may not fulfil the requirements of another. Landlords should be aware of the need to Houses in Multiple Occupation

5 satisfy the requirements of Town Planning legislation, the Housing Act 2004 and Building Regulations individually. Circular 03/05 Changes of Use of Buildings or land The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 Planning legislation does not define multi-occupation or HMOs. Similarly, HMOs are unclassified in the Use Classes Order. Planning permission is not required when a unit of residential accommodation continues to operate as a dwelling house (e.g. house, bungalow, flat). Although the control limit of six persons defines the scope of the C3 dwelling house classes, this does not imply that any excess of that number must constitute a breach of planning control. However, planning permission will be required when a material change of use occurs to the dwelling house. Factors which can be indicative of a material change of use to a HMO could include: 5 Relationship between residents; Origin of tenancy; Extent to which facilities are shared; Whether occupants are responsible for the whole house; Extent to which residents can lock doors; Responsibility for filling vacancies; Allocation of rooms; The size of the establishment; Stability of the group; Mode of living; Individual food lockers; Level of activity, noise and disturbance; Impact on locality when compared with what could be expected from a dwelling house of that size. Developers should contact Planning and Regeneration Services for further advice on their specific proposal. Please Note: there may

6 be a charge for this service as we now charge for pre-application advice. 4. Building Regulations 2000 (As amended) Purpose Groups Under the Building Regulations HMOs fall within the category of Other Residential (Purpose Group 2(b)), unless no more than 6 people live in a self-contained dwelling, in which case the premises fall into one of the following Purpose Groups: 6 1(a) Flat (i.e. a separate and self-contained premises constructed or adapted for use for residential purposes and forming part of a building that is horizontally divided from some other part of the building) 1(b) Dwellinghouse which contains a habitable storey with a floor that is more than 4.5metres above adjoining ground level 1(c) Dwellinghouse which does not contain a habitable storey with a floor level which is more than 4.5metres above adjoining ground level Where a building does not satisfy the 6 people living in a self-contained dwelling rule, the building will fall into one of the following Purpose Groups: 2(a) Residential (Institutional) (i.e. Hospital, home, school or other similar establishment used as living accommodation for, or for the treatment, care or maintenance of persons suffering from disabilities due to illness or old age or other physical or mental incapacity, or under the age of 5 years, or a place of lawful detention, where such persons sleep on the premises); or 2(b) Other residential (i.e. hotel, boarding house, residential college, hall of residence, hostel and any other residential purpose not described above) In addition, where an existing HMO is altered the Building Regulations may require more onerous standards to be applied, Houses in Multiple Occupation

7 examples include: When a loft space is converted to one or more self-contained flats and the remainder of the property remains an HMO; or The conversion of one or more bedrooms in upper floors of a building into self-contained units and the remainder of the building continue to be non self-contained units of accommodation. In the above instances the Building Regulations apply additional safety standards to protect the occupants of the self-contained units. These can be seen as being particularly onerous where the building is served by a single access and escape stairway. Under these circumstances all units of accommodation need to be separated from the stairway by two fire-resisting doors and the stairway needs to incorporate a one metre square automatic opening vent. 5. Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 The person responsible for meeting the order is anyone who has control of the premises concerned, e.g. landlords or property owners. In HMOs and flats the order only applies to the common areas of the premises, i.e. the stairway, shared kitchens, lounges and associated escape routes to exit doors. 7 The responsible person must ensure that a fire risk assessment of those areas is carried out and, that as far as is reasonably practical, make sure that everyone in the premises is alerted and can escape safely if there is a fire. If the premises has been designed and built in line with modern Building Regulations (and is being used in line with those regulations) the structural fire precautions should be acceptable. A fire risk assessment must still be completed to ensure that the fire precautions are being maintained. The fire risk assessment must be reviewed on a regular basis or if there has been a change to the level of risk in the premises.

8 Guidance is available in the document Fire Risk Assessment- Sleeping Accommodation, ISBN The document is also available on line at BOROUGH OF POOLE / DORSET FIRE & RESCUE SERVICES Building Consultancy Planning & Regeneration Housing & Community Services Dorset Fire & Rescue Services We can give you help to read or understand this information boroughofpoole.com/accessibility Further copies from: Housing & Community Services Published September copies printed on 130gsm at 1.24 each. Produced by BridgeworksUK Ltd. Printed by Poole Bay Press.

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