A north London-based property lawyer has said that a recent Supreme Court decision will affect many more landlords following a change in the law that widens the definition of ‘house of multiple occupation’ (HMO) to take in two as well as three-storey houses.
Zahra Himani, a Property Solicitor and Senior Associate at Finchley-based law firm OGR Stock Denton Solicitors, said that the Supreme Court decision in Nottingham City Council v Parr and another will become increasingly relevant under the new rules.
The case concerned whether a property with a bedroom that the local council deemed to be too small to comply with the HMO rules could receive an HMO licence on the basis that it was let to students who are likely to make greater use of shared facilities than other tenants.
The Supreme Court found in favour of the landlord and ruled that the room in question could only be let to a student.
Under the new rules, which came into effect this month, any house let to five or more unrelated people who share the same facilities, will require a licence costing £1,235.
Commenting on the Supreme Court decision, Zahra Himani said: “This is an interesting judgment as it gives us an indication of the type of debate that will become commonplace now that HMO licences are required for more properties.
“There will be arguments that certain properties that were not previously within the HMO rules and which now require HMO licences might be unsuitable, which could cause strain on the already tense housing situation.
“The judgement confirms that licences can be granted with certain conditions which would permit these properties to remain as HMOs and, therefore, there seems to be a nod towards moving away from a simple tick-box exercise.
“However, it remains to be seen whether this levels the playing field for landlords or whether it disadvantages tenants who are living in unsuitable properties and will continue to have to do so.”
Failing to comply with the HMO rules can be very costly for landlords found not to be compliant, with a fine of up to £30,000 applying to every property found to be in breach of the rules.