Houses in Multiple Occupation Licensing Conditions – Supreme Court Ruling

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HousesIn a decision of importance to landlords, particularly of student accommodation, the Supreme Court has ruled that conditions attached to licences granted in respect of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) can stipulate classes of persons who are considered suitable to occupy them.

The case concerned two properties that were rented out to students. HMO licences issued by the local authority incorporated conditions that banned the landlord from letting attic rooms within the properties on the basis that they were too small for reasonable occupation, having habitable floor spaces measuring less than eight square metres.

Following proceedings before tribunals and the Court of Appeal, the latter ruled that the conditions should be deleted. Substituted in their place were conditions that all the rooms in the properties, including the attic spaces, should only be let to full-time students. There was also a requirement that space be provided in both properties for communal living.

In dismissing the local authority’s challenge to that decision, the Supreme Court rejected its plea that the conditions imposed fell outside the powers conferred by Sections 64 and 67 of the Housing Act 2004. The list of permitted conditions provided by the Act was non-exhaustive and the ‘full-time students only’ requirement met the statutory purpose of ensuring that HMOs are reasonably fit for occupation.

It was appropriate to have regard to the proposed mode of occupation of an HMO when considering what conditions to impose in order to ensure the quality of the accommodation offered. In those circumstances, the power to impose conditions under the Act could be used to limit the classes of persons who could occupy particular HMOs. Limiting occupation of the properties to full-time students was therefore rational. However, a further condition, requiring that the attic rooms be occupied for a maximum of 10 months per year, was ruled irrational and deleted.