What is an HMO?

A house in multiple occuption (HMO) is a property (house or flat) which is let out to 3 or more tenants, who form 2 or more households and who share a living room, kitchen, bathroom or toilet. The property must be the tenants only or main residence.

Houses in multiple occupation provide valuable much needed accommodation but can also be amongst the most hazardous places to live. Various pieces of legislation have been produced to ensure that the standards of HMOs are maintained to ensure the safety of the tenants. HMO's may also be assesssed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Management of HMO regulations

All properties meeting the above HMO definition need to ensure that they comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006. These regulations, produced by the government, require anyone who manages an HMO observes proper standards of repair, cleanliness and maintenance throughout the property.

Mandatory licensing of HMOs

Some HMOs will also need a licence from the council if the property meets the following criteria:

  • occupied by five or more people, forming two or more households; AND
  • tenants share facilities such as kitchen or bathrooms

Purpose built flats will also come within the definition, where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both of the flats are occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households. This will apply regardless of whether the block is above or below commercial premises. This will bring certain flats above shops on high streets within mandatory licensing as well as small blocks of flats which are not connected to commercial premises.

It is the individual HMO that is required to be licensed and not the bulding within which the HMO is situated. This means that where a building has two flats and each is occupied by 5 persons living in 2 or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

If your property requires a licence, you must complete a licence application and submit the necessary certificates and payment. Once the application has been considered, a draft (or 'minded to') letter and licence will be granted. Assuming there are no representations, the final licence will then be issued approximately 3 weeks following the draft licence. An appointment will be made to inspect the property within the 3 year period and works may be required to bring the property up to standard.

Apply for an HMO licence

Be aware that if you apply for a licence online, you will need to make the payment to complete the application.  If you download the application form the payment can be made online.

A licence will be granted if:

  • the house is or can be made suitable for multiple occupation;
  • the applicant is a fit and proper person and the most appropriate person to hold the licence;
  • the proposed manager has control of the house, and is a fit and proper person to be the manager;
  • the management arrangements are satisfactory.


The current licence fee within Cheltenham is £650 and a licence lasts for three years. Additional fees may be payable in the case of incomplete, invalid or incorrect applications.

Fit to Rent

If the applicant is in agreement, the property will also be issued with a Fit to Rent certificate and will become part of this accreditation scheme.

Download the Fit to Rent register

Fines and Penalties

It is an offence:

  • to not have a licence for a property that requires one; or
  • to allow occupation of an HMO over the number of people permitted; or
  • to fail to comply with any conditions of the licence

You could get an unlimited fine for renting out an unlicensed HMO or a fine of up to £5000 for breaching a condition of the licence upon conviction (as at October 2018). Local authorities are also able to issue landlords with civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence as an alternative to prosecution.

Rent Repayment Orders

A tenant living in a property that should have been licensed but was not, can apply fo the First Tier Property Tribunal to claim back any rent they have paid during the unlicensed period (up to a limit of 12 months). Councils can also reclaim any housing benefit that has been paid during the time the property was without a licence.

Restrictions on termination of tenancies

Tenants living in a property that should have been licensed but was not, cannot be evicted by serving a section 21 Housing Act 1988 notice until such time as the HMO is licensed or a management order is in place.

Will tacit consent apply?

Applications for HMO licences are processed as quickly as possible and, in any event, within a maximum of six months (known as the 2initial period") which starts running from the time when all documentation has been submitted. However, where the applicaion is particularly complex tat period may be extended by up to a further two months ("extension period"). If this is necessary you will receive written notification, with the reason for it, of this extension to the period.

Failure by us to process the applicaiton within the initial period or, if appropriate, the extended period, will mean that your licence is deemed to have been granted.

In the case of an incomplete application, you will be informed of:-

  1. the need to supply any additional documentation, and
  2. any possible effects on the period(s) referred to above.

Failed application redress

Please contact us in the first instance. You may appeal to the First Tier Property tribunal. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.

Licence holder redress

Please contact us in the first instance. You may appeal to the First Tier Property tribunal regarding conditions attached to a licence or any decision to vary or revoke a licence. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.

Public Register of Licensed HMO's

Download the public register

Housing health and safety rating system

Housing standards may also be assessed in HMOs using the housing health and safety rating system and the council may require work to be carried out if any serious ‘category 1’ hazards are identified.