This Case Summary outlines a recent judgement that considered whether a five-storey block of purpose built self-contained flats required a HMO licence. The building contained a shop to the ground floor and a number of self contained flats in multiple occupation to the upper four floors (by Mike Warren).

Prosecutions
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Abstract: The claimant local authority sought declaratory relief in respect of a property owned by the defendant (U) for student accommodation. The property comprised a five-storey block of purpose built self-contained flats. The ground floor consisted of a shop and the four upper floors were residential accommodation. Most such accommodation was in the form of cluster flats with four to six bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a communal living room and kitchen. Each flat was on one storey. The cluster flats were each a house in multiple occupation (HMO) within the meaning of the Housing Act 2004 Pt 2 as a self-contained flat.

The issue was whether the HMOs at the property were HMOs for which a licence from the local authority was required. U submitted that each HMO in the property was the individual cluster flat and not the whole building so that, under the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 art.3, none of the HMOs were subject to the duty
to apply for a licence because none comprised three storeys or more. U argued that licensing was intended to be restricted to vulnerable properties where there were risks to health and safety and self-contained flats were not considered a health risk.

The local authority contended that under art.3(2)(a) business premises situated below living accommodation counted towards the qualifying number of storeys and that, under art.3(3)(f), all four of the residential storeys in the building were used wholly or partly as living accommodation or in connection with an integral part of the HMO and that the legislator had intended that any HMO should be licensed if it was occupied by five or more persons and was situated in a building containing three storeys or more.

Judgment for defendant: The consultation document “Licensing in the Private Sector” published by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office as part of its regulatory assessment of Pt 2 referred to a survey of housing conditions and health risks. That report was not concerned with blocks of purpose built flats. It was the size of the HMO that was the focus of concern rather than the size of the building in which an HMO was found. In the final regulatory impact assessment the point was repeated that not all HMOs were to be licensed. Article 3(3) did not substitute art.3(2) and deprive it of its natural meaning, but set out special rules for the limited purpose of bringing business premises and certain uses associated with the HMO into the equation. It was the HMO that had to comprise three storeys and not the building in which the HMO happened to be found. The Order was not intended to apply to purpose built flats in tower blocks. Article 3(3)(f) did not bring each cluster flat in the property into the licensing regime because each flat was on one storey and was self-contained. The living accommodation in the HMO did not comprise more than one storey so when the ground-floor business premises were added, the three-storey threshold was not reached. U was granted a declaration (see paras 20-21, 24, 29-34 of judgment).


Further Information

  • Read the case decision¬†[2013] EWHC 508 (Admin) here.
  • Summary: For the purpose of deciding whether a house in multiple occupation (HMO) required a licence from the local authority under the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 art.3, it was the HMO that had to comprise three storeys and not the building in which the HMO happened to be found. The Order was not intended to apply to purpose-built flats in tower blocks.
  • Queen’s Bench Division (Administrative Court)
  • Significant Legislation Cited Housing Act 2004 (c.34) Pt 2, Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 (SI 2006/371) art.3
  • Legislation Cited Housing Act 2004 (c.34) Pt 2, Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 (SI 2006/371) art.3