The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 place specific duties on the manager of an HMO. Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence, with unlimited fines on conviction. This section highlights some of the key duties in the regulations:
Duty to provide information to occupiers
the name, address and telephone number of the manager must be provided to each household in the HMO and the same information must be displayed in a prominent position in the common parts of the HMO.
Duty to take safety measures
means of escape from fire must be kept free of obstruction and kept in good order and repair fire-fighting equipment, emergency lighting and alarms must be kept in good working order all reasonable steps must be taken to protect occupiers from injury with regard to the design of the HMO, its structural condition and the total number of occupiers. In particular, any unsafe roof or balcony must be made safe or all reasonable measures taken to prevent access to them. Safeguards must be provided to protect occupiers with windows with sills at or near floor level
Duty to maintain the water supply and drainage
these must be maintained in proper working order – namely in good repair and clean condition. Specifically, storage tanks must be effectively covered to prevent contamination of water, and pipes should be protected from frost damage.
Duty to supply and maintain gas and electricity
these should not be unreasonably interrupted by the landlord or manager
all fixed electrical installations must be inspected and tested by a qualified engineer at least once every five years and a periodic inspection report obtained
the latest gas safety record and electrical safety test results must be provided to the council within seven days of the council making a written request for them.
Duty to maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
all common parts must be kept clean, safe, in good decorative repair and working order and free from obstruction in particular, handrails and banisters must be provided and kept in good order, any stair coverings securely fixed, windows and other means of ventilation kept in good repair and adequate light fittings available at all times for every occupier to use
gardens, yards, outbuildings, boundary walls/fences, gates, etc., which are part of the HMO should be safe, maintained in good repair, kept clean and present no danger to occupiers/ visitors any part of the HMO which is not in use (including areas giving access to it) should be kept reasonably clean and free from refuse and litter.
Duty to maintain living accommodation
the internal structure, fixtures and fittings, including windows and other means of ventilation, of each room should be kept clean, in good repair and in working order. Each room and all supplied furniture should be in a clean condition at the beginning of the tenant’s occupation.
Duty to provide waste disposal facilities
no litter should be allowed to accumulate, except for that stored in bins provided in adequate numbers for the requirements of the occupiers. Arrangements need to be made for regular disposal of litter and refuse having regard to the council’s collection service.
2.11.1 Duties Of Occupiers Of HMOs
The regulations also place a number of duties upon the occupiers (the tenants) of an HMO.
These duties include:
not obstructing the manager in the performance of their duties
allowing the manager access to the accommodation at all reasonable times for the purpose of carrying out their duties providing information to the manager which would be reasonably expected to enable them to carry out their duties
acting reasonably to avoid causing damage to anything the manager is under a duty to supply, maintain or repair
storing and disposing of litter and refuse as directed complying with reasonable instructions of the manager with regard to any fire escape, fire prevention measures and fire equipment.
If an occupier breaches their duties under the regulations it is likely to put their tenancy at risk, and the landlord/manager may be able to take legal action against the tenant. Tenants can also be prosecuted by the local authority with a maximum fine of £5,000. The regulations impose duties on both landlords/managers and tenants, and both can be prosecuted and fined for breaching them.
2.11.2 Duty To Carry Out A Fire Risk Assessment
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (known as the FSO) introduced duties in relation to fire safety in the common areas of HMOs, flats and maisonettes. The duty is placed on the responsible person, who is required to carry out a fire risk assessment and take specific action to minimise the risk of fire in the common parts. ‘Responsible person’ means ‘the person who has control of the premises in connection with the carrying on of a trade, business or other undertaking’. In practice this will usually be the landlord, but in the case of absentee landlords where the ‘carrying on of the business’ is undertaken by a managing agent it may be the managing agent.
Where a house is let as a shared house on a single tenancy then there are no ‘common parts’ and so a risk assessment is not required under the regulations.
These provisions are enforced by fire and rescue authorities and there is therefore a dual enforcement regime in place in multi-occupancy premises. In order to avoid duplication and the potential for conflict, a Fire Safety Protocol has been established as a framework for joint working arrangements between the fire and rescue authorities and local authorities.
2.11.3 LGA (formerly LACORS) National Fire Safety Guidance
In July 2008 the Local Authorities Co-ordinator of Regulatory Services (LACORS) issued national fire safety guidance for landlords and local authorities in England. As Welsh statutory fire safety requirements are very similar, the guidance may also be relevant in Wales.
The guidance explains the general principles of fire safety and how to carry out and record a fire safety risk assessment.
Part D of the guidance provides very useful illustrations of the fire precautions that may be suitable for the most common property types. The illustrations are based on properties being of normal fire risk and the guidance explains the factors that determine normal risk.
In addition to HMOs the guidance includes fire safety advice for singly occupied properties. The Housing Act 2004 requires such properties to be fire safe.