It just got harder to be a landlord

Posted on 1 April 2019
It just got harder to be a landlord

New legislation relating to landlords of HMO Properties comes into force today and, unfortunately, it's no April Fools trick.  Landlords of HMO properties in high student rental areas should take particular note!  These and further upcoming changes combined may particularly affect you.  If you're feeling daunted by any of the changes, call our Pinpoint property management team for advice and information...we're here to help make your move's simpler.

On 1 April 2019, the Housing in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 came into force and landlords must have a valid licence for each HMO they own.

Up to now HMOs were registered with NI Housing Executive;  Belfast City Council have now taken over and will manage the delivery of the scheme for all local authorities and will be the base for the NI HMO Unit, under the Planning and Environment department.  Linking in with the other sections e.g. environmental health they aim to have a positive impact on the lives of those living in HMOs, the owners of HMOs, and the residents surrounding HMO properties.

If your property was on the NI Housing Executive Register it will automatically transfer to the new licensing scheme.  They will notify you when your licence is due for renewal.

What is an HMO?
A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property which is:

  • living accommodation
  • the main residence of three or more people who are from more than two households and
  • rented by at least one of the people living in the accommodation.

How much does a licence cost?
The cost of a licence depends on the number of occupants, the base charge is £37 per tenant per year. A licence of up to five years in length can be applied for.

Variation Fees

Other charges will apply for variations to the licence during its term e.g. if a student leaves a tenancy mid term and someone else takes their place.
£185 to add a new owner or managing agent
£185 for each new occupant, including replacement occupant details
£75 inspection fee (per visit)  - its not clear yet if this has to be done at time of variation and the City Council team are unavailable to ask as they are in training

If you're tempted not to register variations to the tenancy, the NI HMO unit can enforce penalties e.g. hitting your pocket, revoking your HMO licence.

Licence Requirements
Landlords will be required to evidence that the home they provide is safe, of good quality and has facilities suitable for the number of tenants. 
By law, landlords must have an antisocial behaviour plan to manage and deal with antisocial behaviour arising from their property. They must also keep a record of any instances of antisocial behaviour and any interventions or actions taken to deal with the issue.

Under the NI Houses in Multiple Occupation Act, landlords or agents must have good management policies and procedures in place to make sure physical standards are maintained, occupiers' rights are respected, and any problems which arise during the period of the licence are effectively addressed. They must also be able to manage issues which may concern neighbours effectively (such as building maintenance, cleaning, noise or disturbance and suitability of the applicant or agent).

Councils consider a landlord’s potential to manage these issues (or past performance) when deciding whether to grant a licence.  Councils may include additional conditions appropriate for regulating the management, use and occupation of an HMO. The NI HMO Unit is responsible for ensuring these conditions are met throughout the lifetime of the licence and may recommend the introduction of additional conditions, variation or revocation of licence depending on a landlord’s performance.

You can find a full and detailed checklist of all the licence requirements HERE