Housing Act 2004

This Act contains a wide range of provisions that affect housing, not all of which were in the original Bill. Not all of the provisions will affect the private rented sector directly so we will concentrate on the relevant areas of the Act. Amended versions of existing Factsheets and new Factsheets will provide more detail on areas of particular relevance to those working in the lettings field. This Act received the Royal Assent on 18th November 2004.

Housing, Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS):

Part 1 of the new Act contains provisions to replace the housing fitness regime set out in the Housing Act 1985. The separate Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) fitness test will also be repealed. The test of fitness is to be replaced with an evidence-based risk assessment process, carried out using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Action by authorities will be based on a three-stage consideration: (a) the hazard rating determined under HHSRS; (b) whether the authority has a duty or power to act, determined by the presence of a hazard above or below a threshold prescribed by Regulations (Category 1 and Category 2 hazards); and (c) the authority’s judgement as to the most appropriate course of action to deal with the hazard.

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs):

Part 2 of the Act introduces a mandatory scheme to licence HMOs of a description contained in regulations. It is intended initially to apply this only to the larger higher risk HMOs of 3 or more storeys occupied by 5 or more people. Local Housing Authorities (LHAs) are given power to extend licensing in their districts to other categories of HMOs to address particular problems that may exist in these smaller properties. This power is subject to carrying out consultation and with the approval of the appropriate national authority. The Act also provides for a new definition of HMO, and limits the scope of licensing and enforcement action (other than in relation to Housing, Health and Safety Rating System action) to certain types of HMOs within that definition.

Selective licensing of Private Landlords:

The ‘selective licensing’ provisions are contained in Part 3 of the Act. Briefly stated, they give local authorities new powers that enable them to establish a licensing scheme for private landlords in their local area, so that, provided certain conditions are met, all private landlords would be required to obtain a licence in order to rent out their property to tenants.

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