Landlords who let homes to more than one household will soon need to be licensed by their local authorities.
The new law targets large, tenanted houses in poor condition
The requirement starts on 6 April this year as part of the implementation of the Housing Act 2004.
One aim of the law is to stop landlords letting sub-standard accommodation to people who are young or poor.
Landlords will have to pay a fee for their licence and if they fail to obtain one, they will lose their right to evict their tenants.
Jan Bartlett of the National Association of Estate Agents said: "Oxford city council has just set its fees for licensing at £800 and the licence will last for five years. Nationwide, fees may vary from £400 to £1,000."
The licences will be needed for all properties of three storeys or more, and for all properties with five or more people forming at least two households. That is because tenants of larger properties are deemed to be at higher risk.
The new law gives three definitions of a multi-occupied property:
- One which is occupied by more than one household and in which more than one household shares an amenity (or the building lacks an amenity) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
- One which is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building that does not entirely comprise self-contained flats (whether or not there is also a sharing or lack of amenities)
- One which is comprised entirely of converted self-contained flats and the standard of conversion does not meet, at a minimum, that required by the 1991 Building Regulation and more than one-third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.
There are some exemptions - for instance, buildings occupied by a resident landlord with up to two tenants.
Local authorities will also have discretion to bring in their own additional licensing rules for these properties.
The most high-profile feature of the 2004 Housing Act is the requirement for sellers or estate agents to prepare Home Information Packs before putting the properties up for sale.