The Government has published a technical discussion document intending to extend the scope of mandatory HMO licensing. At the moment, if you need to share cooking or washing facilities with more than 3 unrelated/unconnected people you are probably in an HMO, and the owner will be subject to particular laws and standards.
If you are in an HMO with more than 2 storeys, the owner probably needs an HMO licence. The discussion draft proposes widely extending which HMOs need a licence.
Why is this relevant to purpose built student housing? Many student rooms are now en-suite, but most student blocks will involve clusters of students along a corridor sharing (impeccably clean) kitchens and potentially bathrooms. Those are HMOs but as a result of a recent High Court case (Unite v London Borough of Islington) probably don't need a licence.
What is the issue with getting a licence? Uncertainty and hassle. Local Authorities are massively under-resourced and are struggling with the current system. Before Unite it was difficult in many cases to get councils to confirm whether or not a licence was required.
The current status quo following the Unite case is that each 'cluster' or corridor of rooms with shared facilities within a student block is its own HMO. Those only need licences if the clusters include two flights of stairs. Most blocks probably don't have internal sets of stairs for fire safety and other design reasons.
If licensing is extended and it doesn't either clearly exclude purpose-built student blocks, or doesn't reiterate the Unite case, managers and investors of these blocks will have another layer of complexity to manage. A good reason to respond to the consultation perhaps?
This technical discussion paper sets out options for extending the scope of mandatory licensing of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO). It also sets out our proposals to streamline the HMO licensing process. The government welcomes views on the options and proposals set out in this paper. Comments should be submitted via the online form. The closing date for comments is 18 December 2015.