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In a bid to reduce overcrowding in rental properties, the government introduced minimum bedroom size regulations for houses in multiple occupation (HMO) in 2018.
If landlords let rooms which are too small, they could face prosecution or be hit with a fine. Read our guide to make sure your rooms are big enough for tenants and comply with the regulations.
There’s no legal definition for a bedroom in the UK. However, it’s used to describe a room where someone sleeps and you’d find furniture such as a bed.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a fair indication of a bedroom is a space which can fit a small single bed and has a window.
A large HMO is a property that’s let to five or more tenants from more than one household. In this type of property some or all of the tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities, and at least one tenant pays rent.
If you let a large HMO, it will need a licence. In 2018, mandatory HMO licensing was extended to cover properties of all sizes, and not just those with three or more storeys. At the same time, new HMO minimum room sizes and limits on overcrowding were introduced.
The minimum bedroom sizes for licensed HMOs are as follows:
If any room in the HMO has a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres, you must tell your local housing authority. At the same time, you need to make sure that no room with an area of less than 4.64 square metres is used as a bedroom.
Gov.uk says that when measuring rooms you need to include the whole floor area from wall to wall where the ceiling is higher than 1.5 metres. If any part of a room has a ceiling of less than 1.5 metres, this area can’t be included in the measurement.
The 2018 regulations were introduced to stop ‘opportunist rogue landlords’ exploiting vulnerable tenants with sub-standard, overcrowded homes which are potentially dangerous.
As well as extending mandatory licensing and introducing minimum bedroom sizes, the government introduced rules on the number of tenants allowed in an HMO.
Each licence states a maximum number of people who can live in each bedroom for the following criteria:
For example, an HMO licence could state a maximum per bedroom of two tenants aged over 10 years old, three tenants aged under 10 years old, and two tenants aged both over 10 years old and under 10 years old.
Any HMO that’s been given a mandatory or additional licence since 1 October 2018 must meet the minimum bedroom sizes and maximum number of occupants.
If your HMO property was licensed before October 2018, is licensed under a selective licensing scheme or doesn’t need to be licensed, then you won’t have to follow these rules.
However, your local authority may have its own minimum space or maximum occupancy regulations which you’ll need to follow. It’s always worth checking on their website or speaking to the housing team.
The above regulations include absolute minimum sizes, so even if your bedrooms don’t break the rules, they might not be suitable for tenants.
For example, a bedroom with kitchen facilities will need to be bigger than one in a large shared house with a shared kitchen. And bedrooms for adults will need to be significantly bigger than those used by children.
It’s important to note that on top of national rules for minimum sizes in HMOs, each local authority will have its own expectations and recommendations that you’ll need to follow.
If your bedrooms are as big as possible and you don’t have too many tenants in one HMO, the chances of having happy tenants who stay for the long-term are higher.
A more spacious and less crowded property is also less likely to suffer from damage or serious maintenance issues.
You could break the rules if you knowingly allow more people to live in the property than the maximum number stated on the licence, or allow people to sleep in rooms which are smaller than the minimum standard.
If you’re found to have knowingly broken the rules, you could be given up to 18 months to make changes to the property and meet the minimum standards.
It’s possible to unknowingly break the rules – for example, if a tenant is subletting without your permission and they’re overcrowding the property or not meeting minimum size standards. If something like this happens, the local authority will decide whether you’ve knowingly broken the rules.
Meanwhile, the rules aren’t affected by temporary arrangements, such as a tenant having someone to stay for a few nights.
Depending on your local authority, there could be extra rules to follow to let a compliant HMO. It’s also important to comply with the Fitness for Human Habitation Act, which was introduced in 2019.
If you break minimum room size or occupancy rules, you breach your HMO licence and could be prosecuted. If you’re convicted, you could be hit with an unlimited fine.
As an alternative to prosecution, your local authority could fine you up to £30,000.
Do you agree with the minimum room sizes for HMO properties? Let us know in the comments below.
Conor Shilling is a Copywriter at Simply Business with over two years’ experience in the insurance industry. A trained journalist, Conor has worked as a professional writer for 10 years. His previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor specialises in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.
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