Coronavirus - Advice for landlords and tenants

The government's response to the Coronavirus pandemic has imposed restrictions which are relevant for landlords in the private rented sector.

Landlords can still access and market their properties and ensure that works are carried out to meet legal obligations and ensure tenant welfare, whilst observing social distancing measures.

Please note the 'when and how to self-isolate' section of the Covid-19 Guidance for HMOs leaflet has been revised as at February 2021.

Key public safety information materials are available for you to print or share online at Coronavirus community resources.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are defined as a house or a flat in which 3 or more households live as their only or main residence and where these households share basic facilities, such as a kitchen, toilet or bathroom. HMOs also include:

  • converted buildings that include non self-contained flats
  • buildings that include self-contained flats and which meet certain tests
  • other buildings where basic facilities are missing

A household could be a single person, or members of the same family living together. If there are 3 or more people living together, for example a shared student house, the building or flat may be classified as an HMO. An HMO is regarded as a person's main or only residence if:

  • they are living in an HMO as a full time student in higher education (except for most halls of residence owned and managed by the universities)
  • the HMO is occupied as a refuge for persons escaping domestic violence
  • the HMO is occupied by migrant or seasonal workers
  • the HMO is occupied by asylum seekers in accommodation partly or wholly funded by the National Asylum Support Scheme

Some HMOs, occupied by 5 or more will require licensing.  

Planning permission

Conversions of houses into HMOs could require permission to change their use – this is applicable to houses of over 6 persons throughout the City. In addition, some parts of the city are subject to an Article 4 Direction which removes the right to automatically change the use between normal houses and small HMOs occupied by 3-6 people.

In order to maintain balanced communities, changes of use to HMOs will not be considered acceptable where more than 20% of homes within 200 meters of the site area already shared housing. Further information is available in 'Planning permission for HMOs' in 'Supporting documents & links'. 

Further Planning restrictions relating to works to the frontages of houses apply to areas of the city in conservation areas and to listed buildings. Further information is available in 'Planning, conservation & the environment' in 'Supporting documents & links'.

Business premises converted into residential accommodation, regardless of the proposed number of occupants will also be subject to Planning Permission. 

Fire Safety Order

Some HMOs will need to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This is often referred to as the RRO or just the Fire Safety Order.

These will typically be houses let as bedsits, hostels and blocks of flats.  Please refer to the 'Fire Safety Risk Assessment for sleeping accommodation' in 'Supporting documents & links'.

Management of HMOs

There are 2 sets of management relations:

  1. most HMOs - refer to 'Statutory Instruments no. 372, 2006' in 'Supporting documents & links'
  2. section 257 HMOs (blocks of self-contained flats that fall within the HMO definition) - refer to 'Statutory Instruments no.1903, 2007' in 'Supporting documents & links'

The Management Regulations impose duties on both the managers and the tenants of an HMO.  The duties imposed are to ensure the good order, repair and, as appropriate, cleanliness of the following:

  • means of water supply and drainage
  • parts of the house in common use
  • installations in common use
  • living accommodation
  • windows and ventilation
  • means of escape from fire, including any fire apparatus.

The manager is also given certain responsibilities in respect of the disposal of refuse and litter, and the taking of reasonable precautions to protect tenants and lodgers from dangers resulting from structural conditions in the premises.

Management regulations also impose duties in the tenants of houses.  We have produced an open letter to tenants detailing their responsibilities that apply to shared houses of 3 or more persons.

Landlords can print this letter off and give to tenants as part of their responsibilities under licensing conditions - refer 'Supporting documents & links'.