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Landlords trapped in a tangle of legal red tape

15 October 2015

Landlords trapped in a tangle of legal red tapeAs a landlord, do you understand the licensing rules for rental properties imposed by your local council?

Hopefully, the answer is yes, but the truth is, licensing buy to let and house in multiple occupation (HMO) homes across the UK is an almost impenetrable mess.

Take London as an example.

The city comprises 33 boroughs of roughly the same size and population.

All operate a mandatory licensing scheme for HMOS with five or more tenants or that have three or more floors.

Five have a borough-wide blanket licensing scheme that covers all private rented homes.

Nine have additional licensing schemes for small HMOs with three to five tenants and six have selective licensing schemes covering buy to lets and HMOs.

Where central London boroughs border each other, some streets have one side in one borough and another in the neighbouring borough.

A buy to let or HMO landlord could own similar properties on opposite sides of the street that are subject to different licensing rules.

Add to that the Welsh and Scottish governments have their own powers to introduce housing laws.

Landlord registration is compulsory in Scotland and will become so in Wales soon, but not in England.

New laws, such as compulsorily fitting smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in buy to let homes apply to England and Wales, but not Scotland, add to the confusion.

Checking the rules comes down to each individual landlord researching the local authority licensing regime for each property – and in some boroughs, such as Brent, London, some rules only apply to certain streets or wards and not the entire council area.

Failing to licence a private rented home can lead to fines of up to £20,000, and for HMO owners, being regarded as an unfit person to manage the property.

In some cases, this could also lead to a breach of insurance or mortgage terms.

Check if your rental property needs a licence here