The licensing of multiple occupancy houses is bewildering buy-to-let landlords who face a postcode lottery, it was claimed yesterday.

A survey by Heritable Bank, a specialist mortgage lender, found that licence fees imposed by local authorities range from £60 to £1,100 while licences can vary in duration from one to five years.

The study also found that 50 per cent of landlords do not understand the licence requirements for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), such as those let to students and to more than one family.

It also found that 12 per cent, or one in eight, of those questioned for the survey had never heard of the new regulations which came into force earlier this year.

An estimated 22,500 landlords who between them own some 100,000 properties are affected.

The bank surveyed 143 property investors and found that HMO licence fees ranged from £60 a year in Hereford-shire to £1,100 in Newcastle and that four councils had not even set their fees.

Landlords with an average HMO property in the neighbouring London boroughs of Richmond and Wandsworth will be expected to pay £105 and £1,100 a year.

Based on an average fee of £358, landlords will collectively pay out a minimum of £38 million or £1,702 a head, Heritable Bank calculates.

It is also warning landlords to check the small print of their licences since 70 per cent of councils levy additional fees and costs for properties with extra occupied rooms or survey requirements. The bank is calling on Government to create clear licence fee guidelines for councils and landlords.