Thursday, February 23, 2006

SIs change HMO laws

Most lawyers think that the 2004 Housing Act is all about HIPS (Home Information Packs), but well informed landlords know different. It is also about the mandatory licensing of and new standards in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation), and the dreaded tenancy deposit scheme, a monstrous slur on the integrity of honest landlords.

Some of these new measures came one step nearer yesterday, I am reliably informed by the government's 'alerts' service, when statutory instruments were laid in parliament.

"What is this?" I hear you say. "What instruments? What does this mean?" Well the passing of an act of Parliament is not the end but rather the beginning of a what is often very long process. The Act is rather like a statement of intent, as it frequently does not actually come into force until some time after it has been passed, after numerous consultations on how it should be implemented have been carried out, and until further secondary legislation has been passed setting out exactly how things will be done. Although there may be a big fanfare when the Act is passed (all the excitement of those three line whips), statutory instruments often sneak in unnoticed. This can cause problems as sometimes people do not know when the law has changed and unwittingly break it by carrying on with the old procedure. "Statutory instruments being laid in parliament" is not really exciting enough to get into the news, not when compared with shrines being blown up in Iraq and massive currency robberies in Kent.

What these (Housing Act 2004) statutory instruments will mean is that if you rent out HMOs, which "comprise 3 or more storeys and are occupied by 5 or more occupiers in 2 or more households" you will have to ensure that they are licensed by your Local Authority or face a huge fine and be unable to recover possession from your tenants under the section 21 procedure. They also replace the current management regulations for HMOs with new regulations, and provide powers to Local Authorities to take over the management of rented properties where there are anti-social behavior problems. SIs were also laid to allow Local Authorities to take over the management of empty properties. So now you know.

All these new measures are due to come into force on 6 April, with the dreaded tenancy deposit scheme scheduled for October. You read about it first here, but you can read more on the massive ODPM web-site here.

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