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House shares – what are my rights?

Rented properties come in many shapes and sizes, with landlords across England and Wales letting around 500,000 subdivided properties to tenants. These subdivided properties are commonly known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (“HMOs”).

What is an HMO?

Many tenants live in properties and do not necessarily know that they are HMOs or understand what rights they have as a result. An HMO is a property that is rented by at least three people who are not from the same “household” (i.e. not from the same family); but who share facilities such as bathroom and kitchen. This is commonly known as a house share. Tenants usually enter into separate tenancy agreements relating to their portion of the property.

HMOs are attractive to both landlords and tenants as they offer tenants an affordable route to renting a property, while maximising financial returns for landlords.

Landlords of HMOs must have a licence to let out a ‘large HMO’. A large HMO is a property
that is let out to five or more people (from more than one household), is at least three storeys high and has shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.

Protection for Tenants

All residential tenants have various rights, including the right to:

  • Live in a property that is safe and in a good state of repair;
  • Have their deposit returned to them when the tenancy ends (and in certain circumstances have it protected);
  • Challenge excessively high charges;

    • Know who their landlord is;
    • Live in the property undisturbed;
    • See an energy performance certificate for the property; and
    • Be protected from unfair eviction. Landlords of HMOs must meet higher standards than landlords of other properties. For example, they must:

      • Provide proper fire safety measures, including smoke alarms;

      • Carry out annual gas safety checks;

      • Make sure that electrics are checked every five years;

      • Ensure that the property is not overcrowded;

      • Provide enough cooking and bathroom facilities for the number of people living in the HMO; and

      • Ensure the communal areas and shared facilities are clean and in a good state of repair.

      These obligations currently only apply to large HMOs, but from April will also apply to properties of any size (if there are five or more tenants).

      If landlords don’t comply with the requirements, they can be prosecuted or fined. From April 2018, a Local Authority can also ban landlords from letting out properties in the future.

      New requirements are being introduced for minimum bedroom size. Rooms sleeping one adult must be no smaller than 6.51m2 and any rooms sleeping two adults must be

      at least 10.22m2. New HMO licences will specify the maximum number of people who may occupy a room, with the aim of offering tenants more protection.

      If you are a tenant (or if you are landlord) and require advice concerning an HMO, we recommend you speak to a specialist solicitor.

      If you require legal advice, call Levi Solicitors on 0113 2449931 or visit www.levisolicitors.co.uk

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