Houses in Multiple Occupation
Many people live in homes where facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms, etc. are shared with other living in separate households. These dwellings are now regulated by the Housing Act 2004.
A property is in multiple occupation if it fulfils one of a number of tests:-
- The standard test.
- The self contained flat test.
- The converted building test.
- There is an existing house in multiple occupation direction.
- It is a converted block of flats.
(1) The standard test:
A building meets the standard test where:(a) It comprises of one or more units of living accommodation not consisting of a self contained flat.(b) The accommodation is occupied by people who do not form a single household.(c) The property represents the individuals main residence.(d) The property is only used for the accommodation of these individuals.(e) Rents are payable.(f) Two or more of the households share basic amenities.
(2) The self contained flat test:
A part of a building meets the self contained flat test if:-(a) It is a converted building.(b) The living accommodation is occupied by those who do not form a single household.(c) That at least one of the units in the building does not consist of a self contained flat – even if there are other units that do.(d) The property represents the individuals main residence.(e) The property is only used for the accommodation of these individuals.(f) Rent is payable.
(3) The converted building test:
A building meets the converted building test where:-
- The building/conversion works do not comply with building regulations.
- Fewer than two thirds of the self contained flats are owner occupied.
(4) House in multiple occupation declaration:
A building meets the house in multiple occupation declaration test where the local authority believes the property fulfils one of the tests at 1-3 above and services a Notice in prescribed form. A right of appeal exists but there is a time limit of 28 days.
Certain buildings – mostly those under control of a public, educational or religious organisation avoid the definition of a house in multiple occupation. An important exception is the dwelling occupied by only two people.
Individuals forming a household includes those living together who are biologically related, married or living together as if married or in a same sex relationship.
Every house in multiple occupation must (with certain limited exceptions) be individually licensed. The application is filed with the local housing department for which a fee is payable. the Local Authority have a duty to ensure:-
- That the house is reasonably suitable for occupation – by the number of people specified in the licence.
- That the proposed Licence holder is fit and appropriate to act as such.
- That the house is managed by someone who has control over it, or alternatively there is an agent who has control of the property – and that the manager is a fit and proper person.
- That the proposed management arrangements are satisfactory.
Licences must contain certain conditions e.g. production of annual gas safety certificates, a declaration to maintain electrical appliances and furniture in a safe condition and that smoke alarms are fitted. A local authority may also at its discretion impose further conditions to promote good management of houses in multiple occupation. A local authority may revoke a house in multiple occupation licence in appropriate circumstances.
Breach of the house in multiple occupation licensing controls may amount to a criminal offence – for example controlling or managing a house in multiple occupation without a licence or in breach of the terms of a licence. Other sanctions also apply including the ability of the local authority or an occupier to apply for an Order requiring repayment of rent – and the prohibition upon the landlord of serving a Section 21 Notice (seeking possession).
This is a complex area. Care and tailored advice are needed in each case.
We are able to offer specialist advice. Please contact our conveyancing team: