Under new Government rules that came into force on 1 October 2018, if you are a private landlord or managing agent letting out a property that meets the new definition of mandatorily licensable Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you must hold or have made an application for a licence - if you do not or have not, you are committing a criminal offence.
You require a licence if your property is rented to five or more people who form more than one household (i.e. they are not a single family) who share basic amenities and who reside in the property as their main or principal home.
A mandatory licence will normally last for a maximum of five years, although it can be for a shorter period.
Any property rented to at least three people who do not form a single household (e.g. a single family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen is also an HMO; in such cases, whilst a licence is not required, you still have to meet a range of additional legal duties around management, amenity and fire safety. Often properties are HMOs despite being called a 'house share' or 'shared house'.
As a landlord or agent, if you have failed to meet these new requirements you may now face a civil penalty of up to £30,000 for each offence you are committing or be prosecuted and face an unlimited fine; you may also be subject to a rent repayment order for up to one year's rent.
In addition you may also be added to a national database of rogue landlords and property agents and could even receive an order banning you from letting out a house in England or engaging in property management work.
Applications should have been submitted to the local authority in the area that the HMO is located.