What is a 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 five persons living in two 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 three 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.

Make an application

To apply for a licence and for information about the application process and costs, please visit our HMO licence application pages.

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
  • to allow occupation of an HMO over the number of people permitted
  • 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.

Public register of licensed HMOs

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.