Houses of multiple occupation (HMO) properties are a common form of rental housing, but they also come with their own set of rules and regulations. One important requirement for most HMO properties is that they must have a valid HMO licence. This licence is granted by local councils and is designed to ensure that HMO properties meet minimum HMO Management standards and minimum standards of safety, health, and welfare.
The Local Council’s HMO Register
One of the easiest ways to check if a property has an HMO licence is to visit the website of the local council responsible for granting the licence. Most councils maintain an HMO register that lists all the licensed HMO properties in the area. This information is often available online and can be easily accessed by the public. If this information is not readily available, you can request the information via the Freedom of Information Act.
What is the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) is a UK law that gives the public the right to access information held by public authorities. The act was introduced to increase transparency and accountability in government and public bodies, and to allow citizens to better understand how these institutions operate.
Under the FOIA, public authorities are required to disclose information in response to requests from members of the public, unless there are specific reasons for withholding the information. These reasons are listed in the act and include reasons related to national security, personal privacy, and commercial confidentiality.
The FOIA applies to a wide range of public authorities, including government departments, local councils, and publicly funded universities. The act also covers information held by private contractors on behalf of public authorities. This means that if a public authority has commissioned a private company to carry out work on its behalf, the company must comply with FOIA requests for information related to that work.
How to Make a Freedom of Information Request
To make a Freedom of Information request, a person must send a written request to the public authority they want information from. The authority must then respond to the request within 20 working days, unless an extension is granted. The response must either provide the requested information or explain why the information is being withheld.
If the request is refused, the requester can make an appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent authority that oversees the implementation of the FOIA. The ICO can investigate the case and issue a binding decision on whether the information should be released.
How Does the Freedom of Information Act Relate to HMO properties?
By making a Freedom of Information request, individuals and organisations can find out if a particular HMO property has a valid HMO licence. This information can be requested from the local council that granted the licence.
Checking the validity of an HMO licence is an important step in ensuring the safety, health, and welfare of residents in a rental property. The local council’s HMO register and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) provide citizens with the tools to access information about HMO properties and determine if they have a valid HMO licence. The FOIA ensures transparency and accountability in public authorities and provides the public with the right to access information held by these institutions. By utilising these resources, individuals and organisations can make informed decisions and ensure that tenants are living in HMOs that meet the required HMO standards.
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