National Organisation of Residents Associations


NORA Response to HMO Licensing Reform




This government Consultation Paper on HMO Reform is welcomed by NORA members. It offers protection for those living in HMO currently exempt from licensing, and raises the standards of accommodation and management of refuse, and both are long-awaited reforms. They will be greatly appreciated by those who have experienced the serious problems caused by unscrupulous landlords and developers exploiting the exemptions and the defects of the present system of licensing. NORA has for many years been concerned at the abuse of the current regulations, that have led to so many appalling conditions not only for those living in such HMO but also for the residents living in close proximity to them.

The answers to the thirty-two questions reveal how the proposals are considered positive and in the general interest and benefit to those living in HMO. We hope the NORA Response will be seen as fully supporting the government proposals.

There are two missed opportunities.


The Consultation Paper raises the question of penalties for breach of licensing and for breach of overcrowding in non-licensed premises. The profits made by unscrupulous landlords are usually vastly greater than the penalties that can currently be exacted. The Proceeds of Crime are only exacted once the breach has been declared a crime often leaving a large profit in the landlords' pockets. The aim should be to claim all the income that rogue landlords and developers make from the very start of their development, and this proposal is included in our answers. That would be the best deterrent.

Space Standards

The decision to include the first mandatory imposition of space standards for bedrooms in HMO is a great step forward to ensure a minimum standard. Unfortunately the actual definitions are less than the minimum space standards recommended in the DCLG's own 2015 document 'Nationally Described Space Standards'. No justification for this is given. We seek to impose the minimum standards described in the DCLG document, because it will oblige developers and landlords to provide comfortable, adequate and modern facilities for their residents.


1. Is the proposal sufficiently clear about how the new scheme will apply to buildings that are HMOs occupied by five persons or more in two or more households? If not please explain why.

YES, but two preconditions are essential.

First any HMO requiring a licence must have the appropriate planning consent before it can receive a licence to operate as a licensed HMO.

Secondly, it should be a criminal offence to operate a HMO without the necessary licence. The penalty should include forfeiture of income during any period of unauthorised occupation

This will protect residents living in HMO, who then know they meet the appropriate standards, and it will also protect residents living in the vicinity of HMO, who then know they are operating legally.

2. Do you agree with our approach with regard to the threshold for mandatory licensing of multiply occupied purpose built flats? If not, please explain why.


3. Are the different rules that apply in relation to the mandatory licensing of flats in purpose built blocks and converted premises set out sufficiently clearly? If not please explain why.

YES, but NORA members see no reason or justification for this exemption. All flats or rooms used as HMO should be subject to licensing.

4. Do you agree that where buildings contain individual flats in multiple occupation that these should be separately licensed, including where the flat is in a building which also contains bedsits? If not please explain why.


5. Do you agree the licence of a multiply occupied flat should extend to the common parts, in appropriate cases? If not please explain why.


6. How are the common parts dealt with under additional licensing which relate to self-contained flats (a) when the whole building is owned or managed by the licence holder and (b) where the licence holder is a leaseholder of an individual flat let in multiple occupation and doesn't have control of the common parts?

Not known

7. Do you agree that the proposal for implementing the new regime in two phases is clear and appropriate? If not please explain why.


8. Are the transitional arrangements for HMOs that are already licensed, or which ought to have been licensed, clear and appropriate? If not please explain why.


9. Do you agree that persons sharing protected characteristics are more likely to live in HMOs than in the wider private rented sector? Please give your reasons.

Not known

10. Do you believe that extending the scope of mandatory licensing will impact upon persons sharing protected characteristics and if so how will it impact upon them? If you think the impact is negative can you suggest how it may be mitigated?

YES. The protection is for their benefit.

11. Do you agree that the regulations should only apply to rooms occupied by one or two persons? If not, please explain why.

NO. Unless there is clear guidance and control over over-crowding, there would be inadequate protection for greater numbers. Restriction of the size of rooms to one or two persons will not protect greater numbers in rooms.

12. Do you agree that there should be no difference in how children and adults are counted for the purpose of the room size condition? If not please explain why.


13. If you do not agree with question 12 how you would treat children for the purpose of calculating minimum room sizes?

14. How easy or difficult would it be for local housing authorities to monitor and enforce where children are to be counted separately from adults?

Not known

15. Do you agree that the minimum floor to ceiling height should be set at 1.5 metres? If not, do you have an alternative measure that can be used? Please explain your alternative measure.

NO. The wording of this minimum height could apply to the whole room, which would then only be useable by midgets. Presumably this concern is related to bedrooms in attic spaces.

NORA members expect the minimum standards listed in the DCLG's own 2015 document 'Nationally Described Space Standards' to apply to bedrooms in HMO. This would make 7.5 sq. m. the minimum floor space for single bedrooms, 11.5 sq.m. for a double or twin bedroom and the minimum floor to ceiling height should be 2.3 m for at least 75% of the gross internal area.

This would ensure that residents in HMO would have adequate, comfortable and modern facilities no less than those for everyone else.

16. Do you think that the proposal not to treat temporary visitors as occupiers is appropriate?

NO. This would provide a loophole in the legislation open to abuse by the unscrupulous.

17. Do you agree that if the landlord causes or permits the occupation of a room which does not comply with the room size rule, they shall be in breach of the HMO licence?

YES. Why not make this a criminal offence, so that the proceeds of crime start early in the course of the breach?

18. Do you think the definition of hostel and temporary accommodation providers is appropriate? If not please explain why. Can you give examples of the types of providers whose accommodation may be subject to the exemption?

YES. The homeless and the destitute are usually housed by charitable organisations or local authorities. Migrant workers are usually housed by employers. Exemptions are not necessary.

19. Do you think that introducing minimum room sizes will impact upon persons sharing protected characteristics and if so how will it impact upon them? If you think the impact is negative can you suggest how it may be mitigated?

YES for their benefit

20. How many families living in bedsits or shared houses do you think would be affected by the policy of restricting the number of occupants to specific size of the rooms?

Not known

21. Do you think the impact on the family would be negative or positive? Please explain why If you think the impact is negative please say how you think it might be mitigated


22. Do you think regulations should be made that would require a criminal record certificate to be obtained for an applicant for a licence and any manager of the property?


23. Do you have a preference for checks through DBS or Disclosure Scotland? If so please explain why.

No comment

24 Do you agree that there should be a mandatory condition in HMO licences relating to household refuse?


25 Do you think the terms of the condition are reasonable and appropriate?


26. Do you think that such a condition would impose additional costs on licence holders? If so please provide an estimate of how much compliance with such a condition might cost and give your reasons.

Not known

27. Is local housing authority intervention in purpose built licensed student accommodation currently minimal? Please give your reasons.

Not known

28. Do you think that membership of a code of practice approved under section 233 ensures acceptable management practice and standards? If not, please explain why.

Not known

29. Do you agree that the Secretary of State should consider whether to approve a code of practice under section 233 which relates to purpose built blocks of flats exclusively providing accommodation for students? Please give your reasons.

Not known

30. Do you agree those private providers who comply with such a code should be entitled to a discount on the standard rate for a licence application? Please give your reasons.

No comment

31. Do you think a 50% is appropriate? If not should this be more or less? Please give your reasons

No comment

32. What savings could a landlord expect by a reduction in fees of say 50%?

No comment

November 2016                                                Alan B Shrank - NORA chairman