Houses of Multiple Occupation: Minimum Standards of Accommodation

When granting a licence for an HMO the Local Authority will impose set minimum standards of accommodation.  These standards may vary slightly from one Local Authority to another but are largely similar throughout England and Wales.    As a rough guide the minimum standards are:

Space Standards

Set room sizes are laid down according to the number of persons sharing examples may be:

A bedsit (being a bedroom with basic cooking and food preparation facilities) should be a minimum of 8.5 m².   A bedroom without basic cooking and  food preparation facilities and where a separate living room is provided within the building can be a minimum of 6.5 m².

 A kitchen for an HMO to be shared by one to five  persons must be 7 m² and if shared by six  to ten persons the kitchen  must be 10 m².  

A living room and or dining room shared by one to five  persons must each be 11 m² and if shared by six  to ten  persons it must be 14 m².   When setting down the minimum space required the minimum space must be “usable space” and the room must allow for the appropriate amount of furniture and for there to be enough space for movement about the room.   Any floor space with a ceiling height of less than 1.5 m is disregarded for the purpose of measuring the total space in the room.

A maximum of two people are permitted to share a room in which they sleep (irrespective of age).   A room shared by more than two  people is considered overcrowded.

The HHSRS Criteria

The Local Authority will also assess the HMO with reference to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”).

The HHSRS criteria is based on the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome examples could be the likelihood of a fire, the likelihood of the flood or the likelihood of someone falling down stairs and so on.  The HHSRS criteria are based on the principle that: “any residential premises should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier or visitor”.

Each perceived hazard is graded  to help determine its seriousness.  If the property is found to have a serious, category 1 hazard the Local Authority has a duty to take action.    Action could be to serve notice of the landlord to carry out the necessary repairs to property or arrange for the repairs to be carried out and charge the cost to the landlord.  If the hazard is sufficiently serious action can extend to the issue of a prohibition order which will have the effect of closing all or part of the property which will mean that the landlord will be unable to let property until the repairs have been carried out satisfaction of the Local Authority.

When making their assessments the assessors look at the hazards in the light of their effect on the most vulnerable age group regardless or whether or not the current occupiers of the property are within that age group.

There are 29 hazards listed within the HHSRS criteria and these are divided into four main sections:

  • Physiological
  • Psychological
  • Protection against Infection
  • Protection against Accident

 

Physiological- This section covers damp and mould growth; excess cold; excess heat; asbestos and manufactured mineral fibre; biocides; carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products; lead; radiation; and combusted fuel gas and volatile organic compounds.

Psychological - This section covers crowding and space; entry by intruders; lighting and noise

Protection against infection- This Section Includes domestic hygiene; pests and refuse; food; personal hygiene; sanitation and drainage and water to supply for domestic purposes

Protection against Accident -This section includes falls associated with baths; falling on level surfaces; falling associated missteps and stairs; falling between levels; electrical hazards; fire; flames and hot surfaces; collision and entrapment; explosions; position and operability of amenities; structural collapse and failing elements.

Toilet and Personal Washing Facilities

Toilets are to be provided in bathrooms or separate compartments of an adequate size and layout walls and flooring must be easily cleaned and floors slip resistant.

Each separate toilet compartment and each bathroom containing a toilet must have a hand wash basin with a continuous supply of hot and cold running water. Baths and/showers must be provided in a ratio of at least one to every five  occupiers sharing and should be readily accessible (normally not more than one floor away from the user) from a communal area. 

Bathrooms and shower rooms should be laid out in a manner that will enable persons using them to wash and dress themselves in a safe manner.   A continuous an adequate supply of hot cold running water should be provided to each bath and shower which must have reasonable temperature control.  Bathrooms and showers must have lighting and heating together with adequate ventilation.  Tiled splash backs are required for all bath and hand wash basins whilst shower cubicles must be fully tiled and provided with a suitable water resistant curtain or door.  The floors to bathrooms and shower cubicles must be easily cleaned and slip resistant.

In an HMO shared by one to four people there must be at least one bathroom and one toilet (these may be combined).  Where the HMO is shared by five people, a minimum of one bathroom and one separate toilet with a hand wash basin must be provided.  If there are between six  and ten  people sharing, there must be a minimum of two  bathrooms and two separate toilets with wash hand basins (one of the toilets may be contained within one of the bathrooms).  With eleven to fifteen people sharing three  bathrooms and three  separate toilets with hand wash basins are required (two  of the toilets may be contained in two  of the bathrooms).

Facilities for Storage, Preparation and Cooking Food

The Kitchen within an HMO should have:

  • Sinks with draining boards
  • An adequate supply of cold and constant hot water to each sink
  • Installations or equipment the cooking food
  • Electrical sockets
  • Worktops the preparation of food
  • Cupboards full storage of food or kitchen and cooking utensils
  • Refrigerators with an adequate freezer compartment or adequate separate freezers
  • Appropriate rescue facilities
  • Appropriate extractor fans, fire blankets and fire doors
  • A light duty type fire blanket that complies with BS 6575 which must be wall mounted at least 1.5 m above floor level are positioned closer to the room exit then the cooking facilities.

There should be one complete set of kitchen facilities where there are  one to five  people sharing and two  sets of kitchen facilities where there are six to seven  people sharing.  When assessing the HMO for the grant of an HMO licence the consideration will be given to the layout of the kitchen.

Other Amenity Standards

  • All bedrooms should have at least two double electric sockets
  • Electrics must be installed in accordance with part P of the latest Building Regulations and the current edition of the IEE wiring regulations
  • Letting rooms and communal lounge areas in bedsit type HMO’s, shared houses need at least one window which has an area of glazing of at least one 10th of the floor area of the room that it serves with an overall area equivalent to 1/20 of floor area of room
  • Dwellings within the HMO must have controllable and affordable heating that is safely and properly installed and maintained heating systems be appropriate to the design layout and construction of the dwelling.  The use of portable electric heaters and convector heaters are considered unacceptable.

It must be stressed that the information provided within this article is for guidance only and the minimum standards imposed by each Local Authority may vary. It should also be borne in mind that new regulations are being introduced all the time and existing regulations varied. It is important to check with the local authority in which the HMO is situated when considering whether or not to buy an HMO.

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