Letting properties to students

I am thinking about buying a large house to rent out to students, but a friend has told me that new rules may mean that I have to get a licence from the council.

I am thinking about buying a large house to rent out to students, but a friend has told me that new rules may mean that I have to get a licence from the council. Is this right?

The government has brought in new regulations relating to multiple occupancy houses, which came into force in April 2006, and since July 2006 it has been a criminal offence to ignore these regulations. However, many people still seem to be unaware of the new rules. If the house is three storeys or more, has five or more people living in it who consist of two or more households, it is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and you will need to get a licence from your local council.

How is a household defined?

A household consists of members of the same family, but this can include grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins and so on. Students will count as individuals unless they are married or living together as a couple.

Is it difficult to get a licence?

You will have to show you are a “fit and proper” person to hold a licence and you will have to provide details of the accommodation in the house, which must be suitable for the number of tenants.

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Will the licence apply to any other house I buy to let out, and how long will the licence last?

You will have to get a separate licence for each property and the licence will normally last for five years.

How much will it cost to organise?

The local council can set their own charge, so it will vary from council to council. You will need to check with the council which is local to where the property is situated.

Will the council inspect the property and insist that I carry out improvements to the house if it is not satisfied?

The local authority does not have to inspect before granting a licence, but may well choose to do so if it thinks it is necessary to ensure that the property is suitable for the number of tenants. Council officers can advise you as to what work is required and have the power to insist you carry out improvements to the property.