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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Information on HMO related legislation

Definition of a House in Multiple Occupation

Simple Definition

A House in Multiple Occupation (or HMO) is a property that is shared by 3 or more tenants who are not living together as a family and who share basic amenities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities but have separate bedrooms

Detailed Definition

Under the Housing Act 2004, if a landlord lets property which is one of the following types it is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO);

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and where those persons share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities;
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and where those persons share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities; 
  • A building which is converted entirely into self contained flats, where the building work undertaken in connection with the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short tenancies.

In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

Each tenant, other than couples and families is regarded as a separate household. Under the Act, a household comprises:

  •  A  single person; or
  • ­ Co-habiting couples (whether or not of the opposite sex); or
  • ­ A family / relatives living together (including foster children and children being cared for and any domestic employees living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person for whom they are working). 

For example, three friends sharing together are considered three households. If a couple are sharing with a third person that would consist of two households. If a family rents a property that is a single household. If that family had an au-pair to look after their children that person would be included in their household.


Certain types of building are not HMOs for the purpose of the Act.  They include:

  • Buildings, or part of buildings occupied by no more than two households, each of which comprise a single person only (for example, two person house or flat shares);
  • Buildings occupied by a resident landlord with up to two tenants;
  • Buildings managed or owned by a public sector body, such as the police, local authority, registered social landlords, fire and rescue authority and the NHS;
  • Buildings occupied by religious communities;
  • Student Halls of residence where the education establishment has signed up to an Approved Code of Practice;
  • Buildings occupied entirely by freeholders or long leaseholders.


Find out if you need a HMO licence

A HMO licence is needed if a property:

  • has three storeys or more (including cellars, attics, basements, mezzanine floors and loft conversions) and
  • is occupied by five or more people from two or more households and
  • has tenants who share some amenities like kitchen, bathroom or laundry
  • in some cases a maisonette in a house or above commercial premises may need a licence if similarly occupied.


The cost for a licence is £634.60 for 2018-2019. 

Will tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. Please contact us at any time after submitting your licence application.

Why HMOs are licensed

  • A licence means that the property meets certain standards to ensure that it is safe and suitable for the number of people who live there. For example, you are 16 times more likely to have a fire in a three storey HMO than in other types of property
  • The person managing the property will be complying with the prescribed regulations with regards managing the property.

Fire safety guidance

The government has issued fire safety guidance to help us comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). The intention of this guidance is to ensure that there is a consistent risk assessment approach in private rented properties by fire services and councils. Compliance with the guidance will also satisfy the HMO licensing requirement.

Guidance of Fire precautions and risk assessment can be found at the following link.

Planning permission. 

Usually a family dwelling house (Use Class C3) will have permitted development rights that allow for a change of use to a HMO occupied by 3 to 6 unrelated people (Use Class C4) without the need for planning permission, and vice versa. For 7 or more people, a planning application will be required for change of use. 


Management of HMOs 

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 apply to all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) other than converted blocks of flats that have their own management regulations and are covered by Section 257 of the Housing Act 2004. These can be found at

The HMO management regulations place a number of duties upon the manager of an HMO.  Both landlords and managing agents should make sure they comply with these regulations at all times.

Failing to comply with the HMO management regulations may result in prosecution and an unlimited fine (level 5 fine) for each offence.

A summary of the management duties includes ...

  • Duty to supply information - the name, address and a contact telephone number for the manager must be clearly displayed in a prominent position in the HMO.
  • Duty to maintain fire safety measures - all escape routes must be kept safe and free from obstruction.  Alarms, detection and extinguishers must be maintained and certificated.
  • Duty to protect occupiers from injury - appropriate safeguards must be maintained for roofs, balconies and low windowsills.
  • Duty to maintain water supply and drainage - all services and fittings shall be maintained in good, clean working order and free from frost damage.
  • Duty to supply and maintain gas and electricity - the fixed electrical installation must be inspected and tested at intervals not over five years. Certificates must be supplied to the local council within seven days of a request. Neither gas nor electricity supplies should be unreasonably interrupted.
  • Duty to maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances - should all be kept clean, in good repair and in good working order.  These include gas, electric, lighting, heating, hot water, toilets, baths, wash basins, sinks, cookers, fridges, food storage, windows, ventilation, yards, paths, gardens.
  • Living accommodation - each room must be kept in good repair and installations in good working order.  Each room must be in a clean condition at the beginning of the tenant's occupation.
  • Disposal of refuse and litter - litter must not be allowed to accumulate and bins adequate to the requirements of the tenants should be provided.

Duties of residents

It is the duty of all residents of the property to ensure that the agent can effectively carry out his duties. All residents must:

  • Allow the manager access, at all reasonable times, to any occupied room, that he may carry out his duties
  • Provide the manager on request with any relevant information
  • Comply with arrangements made by the agent in respect of fire precautions or litter storage and disposal
  • Take care not to hinder in any way the agent in the performance of his duties
  • Take reasonable care to avoid damaging anything which the agent is under obligation to keep in good repair.

To complain about the standards of management in a house in multiple occupation, please contact Private Sector Housing  on 01623 463212.  

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