There are lots of landlord legal obligations you should keep up-to-date with, including HMO licence fines (for houses in multiple occupation) and other fines for landlords.
Not meeting your obligations as a landlord can lead to penalties, so here are some of the most important ones you should know about.
You could be fined for renting a property out to more than one household without the right licence.
A property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if at least three tenants live there, forming more than one household (for instance, these tenants are unrelated). Bathrooms, toilets, and other amenities will be shared by these tenants.
A property is a large HMO if at least five tenants live there (forming more than one household), and facilities like bathrooms and kitchens are shared between tenants.
You must meet HMO obligations and safety checks, including making sure the property is not overcrowded and that there are enough facilities for people living there. You’re responsible for repairs to communal areas.
If a property is a large HMO then you need a license from your council. Some councils need other HMOs to be licensed, so be sure to check with your local authority.
HMO fines and penalties depend on your local council but can include:
As above, landlords need to meet specific HMO obligations – these can vary from council to council. HMOs should be safe and provide all the basic conditions for living (for instance, it should be big enough with no overcrowding).
A Brighton landlord was fined £43,680 in 2017 for breaching safety obligations. At the time, it was Brighton Magistrates Court’s biggest fine on record.
The property had an obstructed fire escape, unsatisfactory fire equipment and alarms, tiny bedrooms, and 12 tenants (the property was licensed for just nine).
Landlords have gas, electrical, and fire safety responsibilities. Breaking them puts your tenants lives at risk and can incur significant penalties.
Fines vary depending on the severity of the situation, but they can reach huge sums:
As an example, a rogue landlord in Westminster was fined £214,000 in 2017 for putting his tenants’ lives at risk across various properties in London.
One of his properties was found to have an exposed live electrical cable on the electric cooker hob, posing a risk of electrocution.
Another property had inadequate safety measures. In terms of fire safety, there was no safe exit route in the event of a fire and the landlord was unable to supply gas and electrical certificates.
There are different types of residence for planning purposes, including houses, flats, and HMOs. Planning permission is automatically required when there’s a material change in use of the property.
Subdivisions (where a property is converted from one big flat into two smaller ones, for instance) are generally treated as a material change in use. HMOs also need to meet specific obligations and safety checks (as mentioned above).
There are minimum space requirements too, so always get planning permission from your local authority.
Fines vary, but there are many stories about rogue landlords receiving huge penalties for not getting planning permission. One landlord in Maida Vale, London, was fined over £500,000 for converting four floors of one property into eight flats.
Landlord harassment (such as changing locks) is a criminal offence that can lead to illegal eviction (also a criminal offence). Landlords can go to jail, plus tenants can claim damages and compensation.
To legally evict someone, you should follow three steps:
A Sheffield landlord was convicted and ordered to pay a total of £3,700 in fines and compensation in 2017, after serving a tenant notice to move out and then removing and changing the locks only days later.
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22 June 2020 • 9-minute read
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