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23/02/2024

Tenants And Landlords Reminded Of HMO Licensing

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Belfast City Council has reminded landlord and prospective tenants about the importance of making sure shared rentals are licensed as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).

In Belfast, under current regulations all HMOs must be licensed by the council to help make sure they are safe, good quality and well managed. An HMO is defined as living accommodation which is the main residence for three or more people from more than two different households, where at least one person pays the rent.

Since 2019, landlords managing a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) are required to obtain a license from their local council in order to lease it to multiple tenants, unless a temporary exemption notice is in place. Additionally, landlords must possess a valid license for each specific HMO they own.

Chair of Belfast City Council's Licensing Committee, Councillor Gary McKeown, said: "If you're thinking about a new rental with other people, whether as a student or otherwise, it's important that you check that any potential options have been licensed as HMOs.

"Having a valid HMO licence means that the property you're renting has been assessed by the council, with suitable facilities for the number of people living within it.

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"It is important that people have safe, secure and comfortable accommodation and the licensing process for HMOs helps ensure that those properties which fall into this category meet certain criteria and that landlords fulfil their obligations to their tenants. And, if they don't, it provides a way to report this.

"Checking if a property is licensed is easy and free to do – just visit the council's website at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/nihmo and enter the address in the HMO licence register."

In 2019, the responsibility for licensing Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMOs) was transferred to local councils with the enactment of the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (NI) 2016. The NIHMO Unit of Belfast City Council now oversees the regulation of HMOs on behalf of all 11 councils.

As per the regulations, landlords with an existing HMO license must submit a renewal application before the expiration of their current license. Failure to do so will result in the application being treated as new when presented to the council's Licensing Committee for consideration.

Local councils also have the authority to impose additional conditions when granting an HMO license. They are tasked with ensuring compliance with these conditions throughout the duration of the HMO license and possess the authority to take enforcement actions under specific circumstances

Councillor McKeown said: "As a council, we also want to make sure landlords are clear on what they need to do to comply with the regulations and manage their property responsibly.

"The council's website provides a step-by-step guide to applying for an HMO licence, whether it's a renewal or a new application, along with details of the fees to be paid and the documents required.

"The council has clearly set out the process involved in deciding whether to grant a licence - including assessing the proposed management arrangements for a property, looking at how many HMOs are already in place in an area to prevent over-provision and making sure the relevant building control and planning approvals are in place – and council officers have also developed guidance to help landlords with managing anti-social behaviour."

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