I was recently instructed on an interesting case defending a prosecution for a series of HMO offences by a London borough with a substantial licencing scheme. The property was illegally sub-let which meant that the landlord was in breach of his existing licence conditions. The prosecution was defended at trial and the local authority withdrew all charges.
However, I want to focus here on one particular charge. As an HMO, the landlord was required to fulfil the various duties set out in the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, usually known as the HMO Management Regulations for short. Specifically, the landlord was being charged with a breach of regulation 3(b) which requires him to make sure that the tenants have the managers name, address, and telephone number and also that that same information is displayed prominently in the property. Failure to comply with the regulation is an offence under s234 of the Housing Act 2004 and carries an unlimited fine if found guilty.
In this case, the landlord had provided that information to the tenants by giving each of them a specific personal notice and asking them to sign to confirm that he had received it. He had not placed a notice in the property because in his experience such notices were routinely torn down and so by putting up such a notice the tenants were actually less likely to be aware of the necessary information.
In this case, the magistrates accepted that giving a specific notice to every tenant and obtaining confirmation of that was sufficient to satisfy the duty in regulation 3. While this is by no means a statement that a notice does not have to be displayed it does show that there are alternatives.
Landlords should ensure that the key information is recorded in the tenancy agreement and that a notice is put up with it as well. Ideally, this will be behind plastic or in a location where it cannot be removed. However, as a backup, giving a notice to each tenant and asking them to sign to confirm receipt will also be useful.