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Making the Housing Rules Work

(Republished, May 24, 2018) Most of the big noisy parties we experience in this area take place in so-called "mandatory" HMOs--Houses of Multiple Occupation with five or more people sharing that are spread over three storeys or more. The landlords of these houses, which are licensed for five-year terms, are under a legal duty to control their tenants so as to minimise nuisance and disturbance to neighbours. In practice, that doesn't seem to deliver the results we would like, so I've been looking at how the rules work and whether they could be improved. I found a few things that surprised me. One example: although the law governing HMOs (the Housing Act 2004) focuses overwhelmingly on landlords, who face fines if they fail to comply, additional regulations introduced in 2006 also place duties on tenants, who may be fined if they "hinder or frustrate the manager in the performance of his duties". You'd have thought that would cover holding a large, late-night party attended by lots of people and keeping all the neighbours awake. But has anyone ever heard of any tenant facing action under this law? Me neither. Why not? I will be trying to find out. (The 2006 rules apply to all HMOs other than so-called Section 257 HMOs. The latter group became subject to similar rules in 2007.)

This and other questions come into focus in part because Bristol City Council proposes to extend HMO licensing to all HMOs in central areas of Bristol that aren't already covered. In responding to that proposal, it is fair to ask how well the current regulatory regimes work. The public consultation on the council's proposed Additional HMO Licensing Scheme ended on 13 May. Having completed the online survey some weeks earlier, I sent in some additional comments a few days before the deadline. My full letter is here; please see the correction below.

[Revision Note: Section 5 of my letter incorrectly cited regulations introduced in 2007 as the basis for duties imposed on occupiers; the 2007 rules did introduce such duties, but only for a special sub-class of HMOs. The same duties, affecting all other HMOs, had been introduced a year earlier by The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. So, the reference in my letter to the 2007 rules should be read as a reference to the 2006 rules; the rest of the letter stands, as written.

So far as this website item is concerned, I published the original version on May 10 and corrected it on May 14, removing the sentences about duties on occupiers until I had obtained clarification. In republishing the item, I have changed references to the public consultation to reflect the fact it has now closed. My apologies if anyone was misled by the original item, or by the letter.

This stuff is complicated: The full HMO legislation is made up of the Housing Act 2004, which provides the framework, and several statutory instruments, including those in 2006 and 2007, which contain some of the detailed provisions.]


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