Campaigns Local Government Regulation and Enforcement

Licensing lottery: Some councils unprepared for changes to mandatory HMO licensing

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

Too many local authorities are unprepared for the changes to mandatory licensing that are due to come into force in less than two weeks’ time, the RLA can reveal.

The changes will require landlords who let a property to five or more tenants forming two or more households to apply to their local authority for a licence, irrespective of building size. A licence is valid for up to five years, and each HMO property requires a separate licence.

Despite the legislation change set to affect over 177,000 properties, the RLA is concerned that there are still many councils unprepared for this change, and has now written to MHCLG about this.

A lottery

While some councils, for example Birmingham City Council, Newcastle City Council and Havering Council ARE prepared for the change to mandatory licensing, the RLA has discovered that many councils are completely unprepared.


Examples include Manchester City Council, which does not yet have an online system up and running for landlords to apply for a licence, and Hackney Council, which does not yet have the necessary forms available on its website for landlords.

Out of date information

Some councils also have out of date information around mandatory licensing on their websites. For example, in the definition of a HMO, they state the current ‘three storey rule’ – this is that HMOs compromise of 3 or more storeys, occupied by 5 or more persons from two or more households. However, the websites fail to state that as of 1st October 2018, this will change, with the three storey rule set to be phased out.

Yet others are issuing licences for a much shorter period than the standard 5-year licence.  All new HMO licences issued by Norwich will be for just one year, meaning a vastly increased amount of paperwork both the council and landlords have to deal with.

The RLA is therefore reminding landlords that if they have a HMO property that will fall into the extended scope of mandatory licensing which does not already have a licence, they MUST apply for one BEFORE the 1st October. There is no grace period, so it is imperative for landlords to apply for a licence, or else they could face a fine or prosecution and a rent repayment order.

One of the few exemptions will apply to multi-occupied flats in purpose built blocks, if the block contains three or more self-contained flats. However, the flats may still need licensing if the council have implemented an additional or selective licensing scheme in the local area.

What the RLA has been doing

In ongoing preparation for the changes, the RLA has written to over two hundred local authorities reminding them of the changes to mandatory HMO licensing. You can read the letter we have been sending to councils here

In addition to this, the RLA has also written to some local authorities in relation to licence fees. For example, Cheshire East Council has been increasing the cost of licences-which they say will ensure that they can respond to increased demand of properties which will soon fall into the scope of mandatory licensing.  You can read more about this here. 

What you need to do

If your property requires a mandatory licence, and you have not yet applied, you must get in touch with your local authority about this. Each local authority will have different communication strategies. As there is no grace period for the new law, you need to act now so that you are not in breach and at risk of being fined.

Learn more

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.


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