Not the HMO you used to know

By Adrian Moloney, sales director at OneSavings Bank plc

This October, changes to regulations on houses in multiple occupation (HMO) are expected to come into force. These changes will redefine what is counted as HMO, meaning that, from October, there will be a significantly larger number of landlords who will need to ensure they are compliant.

Brokers will play a pivotal role in making sure that landlords are aware of these changes – particularly those that are unaware that they could now be HMO landlords.

Specialist lender InterBay Commercial has put together some advice for brokers on what they and their clients need to know about the changes.

What is changing?
Currently, properties with three or more storeys that are occupied by five or more people from two or more households require a HMO licence. However, the new rules coming into force in October will extend the scope of licensing for HMOs. A licence will now be required for all properties with five or more people from two or more households, regardless of the number of storeys in the property. This means a substantially higher number of properties will require a licence.

In addition to extending the licensing requirements, the government is also proposing the introduction of a minimum room size for bedrooms in licensed HMOs. The new guidance will recommend floor space to be no less than 6.51sqm and 10.22sqm for single and two adults sharing respectively. These new rules are expected to impact approximately 170,000 properties on top of the 60,000 which already have a HMO licence.

How can brokers get ahead?
Ultimately, brokers with existing or prospective clients with HMOs must ensure they understand fully the incoming changes so that they can support their clients in the best possible way. Brokers will play a vital role in raising awareness among those landlords whose properties will soon be classified as a HMO.

In addition, the changes represent an opportunity for brokers to further advise and support their clients. For example, for those clients affected by room size requirements or those landlords looking to convert their properties into HMOs or student lets, brokers can advise on how to access the funding to undertake these changes.

What about finance?
For clients needing to make changes quickly, bridging finance can be an invaluable route of accessing funding so that they can get the changes made within the necessary timeframe. Indeed, some bridging finance providers, such as InterBay, will allow borrowers to acquire finance from day one before applying for planning permission, and even those that don’t will have shorter turnaround times and greater flexibility than other lenders. This will help landlords to make sure they are fully compliant by October.

Things to remember
First, this will mean raising awareness to ensure those landlords whose properties are going to come under the umbrella of a HMO are not only aware of the changes but also understand the steps they will need to take in order to get a licence. This will include finding the funding necessary to increase room size if needed, or advising those clients wanting to convert into HMOs or purchase them.

In addition, landlords will be required to renew their licence through their local council every five years. Therefore, brokers should make sure that landlords are aware of this going forward, and that they have a licence for each individual property in their portfolio.