On 10 September, rather quietly, the government introduced a welcome change to some of the regulations governing HMOs. The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions)(Amendment)(England) Regulations 2012 amend the process for licence renewals in order to cut the amount of information that landlords are obligated to provide.
As the government pointed out in its impact assessment, no provision was made in the original regulations for dealing with renewals of HMO licences. Some landlords may be of the view that this was because the entire process was so much trouble that nobody would want to renew an HMO licence!
Be that as it may, the new regulations reduce the list of requirements on a licence renewal considerably. They reduce the list of statutorily required items on an HMO renewal application (found in Schedule 2 of the Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006) to a simple obligation to state who the licence holder and proposed manager are and which property a licence is sought for. If any other key piece of information has changed then this must also be notified. I am a little concerned that some landlords will not properly recognise this need and will fail to notify local authorities of key changes.
This reduced requirement is only where the applicant and property have not changed and does not reduce the burden in situations where there is a new applicant for an already licensed property. So if you are purchasing an already licensed property then you will still need to complete the entire form.
This is a welcome change for landlords and agents as it reduces the burden, and therefore the cost, for both sides. However, far more needs to be done. The HMO legislation remains excessively complex and full of hidden traps. The only true beneficiaries of the current position are specialist lawyers like myself who make money out of advising landlords and agents on and defending them from actions under the legislaton. HMO regulation is a worthy goal but it needs to be made simple to understand and operate, for the benefit of everyone involved. Hopefully, further changes will continue to cut the burdens imposed by this legislation.