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Property Resources -HMOs - Houses in Multiple Occupation in England - Wales - Scotland - information


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Information for landlords letting or thinking of letting a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) -

On 6 April 2006, HMO licensing was introduced under the provisions of the Housing Act 2004.

Listed below is information issued by Government, local Government and Landlords Organisations on this very complex issue.

All local authorities must licence properties that are at least three or more stories high with five or more persons who form two or more households. This is known as mandatory licensing. Provision has also been made for discretionary licensing where local authorities can extend the licensing system to include other HMOs. This is known as additional licensing

Click on the image to the LEFT to find an excellent guide produced by

What is an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation)?

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is any building or part of a building such as a house, flat, maisonette, bungalow etc that is occupied by people who do not live as a single household (such as people in a family relationship) and where they share (or lack) one or more basic amenities, such as a toilet, or personal washing and cooking facilities. Bed-sit accommodation and houses or flats occupied by sharers where there is no family relationship are examples of HMOs.

A HMO can also be a house or building that has been converted into self-contained flats, if the conversion was below the standards set by the Building Regulations 1991 and at least one third of the flats are tenanted. A purpose-built block of flats is not an HMO (however, an individual flat within it might be if it is let to three or more tenants).Another example is a converted building where there is a mix of self-contained and non self-contained accommodation.HMOs that consist solely of self contained units are exempt from mandatory licensing. The council do not propose to include these properties as part of the new application for additional licensing.

Under the changes in the Housing Act 2004, if a landlord lets a property which is one of the following types it is a House in Multiple Occupation:

  • an entire house or flat which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet (for a definition of household please see the frequently asked questions)
  • a house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self contained (ie the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households
  • a building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term 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 Back to top

Living in shared accommodation

If you live in a property in which three or more people live, at least one of whom is unrelated to the others and where you share facilities your council will call this type of accommodation a 'House in Multiple Occupation' or HMO.

Special rules apply to the management of HMOs and some may need a property licence. Back to top

Do I live in an HMO?

If you live in a property with two or more people who are not related to you or a partner and at least one of you pays rent, share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities you probably live in an HMO.

The following types of accommodation are often described as an HMO:

  • some shared houses or flats
  • a house converted into bed sits
  • some hostels some guesthouses
  • some bed and breakfast establishments and hotels
  • some types of houses converted into flats Back to top

Certain types of shared accommodation are not considered HMOs. Examples include:

  • a house or flat occupied by only two persons
  • a house or flat with a resident landlord plus two other occupiers
  • houses converted entirely into self contained flats with appropriate Building Regulations approval, where at least two thirds are owner occupied
  • a house or flat managed by the council or a registered social landlord
  • a house or flat registered under the Care Standards Act 2000
  • accommodation managed by certain higher educational establishments
  • health, police or fire authority accommodation Back to top

What are the standards?

Your landlord is responsible for making sure your home is kept in repair and is suitable for multiple tenants. If your home has to be licensed the local housing authority can impose conditions to ensure that the property is occupied by no more than the permitted number of persons.

Your council will also check the facilities and ensure that the property is properly managed. Whether or not the HMO in which you live is licensed by the council, your landlord must comply with management regulations. Your home should be also be free of any hazards likely to seriously impact upon your health and safety.

If you think there is a hazard in your home you should contact the council. In all rented properties utilities, like gas, must comply with safety regulations and all furniture should pass fire safety standards.

The landlord has a duty to ensure that a gas safety check is performed annually and a certificate issued. You are entitled to see the certificate.

Licensing requirements and exemptions

As of 6 April 2006 it is compulsory to license shared accommodation of three or more storeys which is occupied by five or more people who live in two or more separate households. A household may be made up of two people who are married, to each other, or are civil partners.

The household may also be made up of people related to each other, or may include nannies or other domestic staff living with the family. Local authorities also have powers to operate additional HMO licensing schemes to apply to properties with less than three storeys and occupied by less than 5 people in their areas.

If you are not sure about any of the licensing issues surrounding your accommodation, you should contact your council. Your landlord is not allowed to evict tenants in order to bring the number of occupants in the property below the threshold for licensing it.

If your landlord threatens you with eviction you should contact your council immediately. Your council will have details of out-of-hours information lines and emergency contact numbers. Contact your housing advice centre for full information on the support services that are available to you.

If you think you are living in a property which should be licensed but isn't, you can report your landlord to the council. Back to top

Source for above © Crown Copyright - jml Property Services hold a Core Licence C02W00008738

Definition of a "House of Multiple Occupation" (HMO) -

Will I have to get a licence for my property?

To find out whether your property will have to be licensed requires a two step process:

One: Compare your property to the criteria in the new definition of an HMO in the Housing Act to establish whether your property is an HMO.

Two: Not all HMOs will have to be licensed. Once you have established that your property is an HMO under the new legislation you then need to think whether your property has 3 or more floors AND 5 or more tenants. If so you will have to apply for a licence. If not, it will not have to be licensed under the national plans but local authorities will have the right to introduce local HMO licensing for certain types of properties if they feel there is a need. Back to top

The Housing Act 2004 defines an HMO as one of the following (part 7 section 254):

  • A building with one or more units of accommodation which are not self-contained flats, occupied by people who are not in one household who pay rent, occupy the property as their main or only residence, are the only people to use that accommodation and share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. If the building contains a mixture of self-contained flats and non-self-contained accommodation the building will still be considered an HMO owing to the presence of non-self-contained accommodation where people are sharing facilities.
  • A converted building with at least one unit of accommodation which is not self-contained, occupied by people from more than one household who pay rent and occupy it as their main or only residence. As with the first definition, such a building may have self-contained flats in it as well but the presence of non-self-contained accommodation will mean that the building is an HMO.
  • (Unlike the first definition, the occupants of the non-self-contained accommodation do not have to be sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities for the building to be an HMO.)
  • A self-contained flat may also be an HMO if it is occupied by people who are more than two households who pay rent, occupy the flat as their main or only residence, are the only people to use that accommodation and share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
  • A building converted into self-contained flats, less than two-thirds of which are owner-occupied, will be an HMO if the building work did not comply with building regulations. Back to top

What is a household under HMO Terms?

  • People may be considered as part of the same household if they are members of the same family (married or living together, or related to one another, including half-relatives and step-children). Foster children and adopted children will be treated as part of the household and so will any domestic employees including carers.
  • The Government are exempting properties with only two joint tenants from the definition of an HMO. As a result to be an HMO a property will have to have 3 or more joint unrelated tenants. For example, a house with five individuals sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities on a joint tenancy will be considered to have five households occupying it. It is worth noting, however, that if two of the five tenants are married to each other or are blood relatives, then the property will only be considered to have four households: the three individuals plus one couple or set of relatives.
  • People are to be regarded as not forming a single household unless they are all members of the same family.
  • Whether or not a group of people classify as a 'household' is also a controversial point under the legislation. A family will classify as a household, whereas a group of individuals sharing a house will normally be considered as multiple occupation. People may also be considered as part of the same household if they are married, living together or even just related to each other (including half relatives and step-children). The Act allows and leads us to expect that regulations will be introduced that prescribe other types of relationship - such as domestic staff or fostering or carer arrangements) that may be either included or excluded within this definition of household.
  • A house shared by five individuals holding a joint tenancy, and sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities will qualify under the new definition as a house occupied by five households. But if two of those individuals are related or in a relationship and 'living together', then there will only be four households. Back to top

Part:Source for above: National Landlords Association - NLA

New legislation changes the definition of a House in Multiple Occupation - England and Wales

From the 6th April 2006 more properties will fall under this definition. It is aimed at improving standards of student houses and bedsits. Houses with three or more storeys let to five or more unrelated people will need to be licensed by the Local Authority. This is to ensure that the Landlord is a "fit and proper person". Landlords who fail to get a license by the beginning of July 2006 risk a fine of £20,000 for contravening the latest regulations in the 2004 Housing Act governing Houses in Multiple Occupation.

Below is a basic check list:

What is a House in Multiple Occupation? - It is a building which is occupied by two or more households which share some facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms or WC's.

What is a household? - The new legislation states specifically - It includes members of the same family (parent, child, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin), persons who are married to each other or live as husband and wife (or an equivalent same sex relationship).

What if a group of students occupy a house? - This will be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation as they would not members of the same household. The legislation has made a specific change to clarify this area. If a property is let through a college/university College Head Tenancy Scheme the property is still an HMO if the persons are unrelated.**

Are there any exemptions from the definition of HMO? - Yes - these are for buildings managed by public sector bodies such as Registered Social Landlords, the Police, the Fire Authority and the National Health Service. **Student Halls of Residence managed by an Educational Establishment are also exempt from the definition.

What are the legal requirements regarding HMOs? - Some higher risk HMOs which consist of three or more storeys with five or more occupants must be licensed by a Local Authority. All HMOs will need to meet basic standards which at April 2006 have to be finalised by the Government. It is likely that these will relate to the numbers of facilities required such as kitchens, baths, showers and WC's and fire prevention works. The standard of management in the property will also be specified to ensure the property is managed properly and maintained in a good state of repair.

Licenses: To grant a license, the licensing authority must be satisfied that:

  • the proposed license holder, the landlord or managing agent, are 'fit and proper' people
  • properties and tenancies are managed appropriately
  • the accommodation meets all minimum standards such as sufficient number of toilets, kitchens and bathrooms for the number of residents

Licenses will be issued with certain conditions attached, such as the requirement to provide gas and electrical safety certificates.

Left: Property that has been an HMO for over 30 years

In Wales There are some 20,000 HMOs. Local Authorities have significant enforcement powers to deal with problems in the private rented sector and can also give grants to improve the condition of properties and for the conversion of HMOs into self-contained accommodation.

In Scotland all residential let property with three or more unrelated tenants has to be licensed as an HMO whereas in England and Wales mandatory licensing in most areas will be restricted to HMOs with three or more storeys and five or more tenants. Back to top

To make matters more complicated a new law - Anti-Social Behaviour Act (Scotland) 2004 states that from the 30th April 2006, all Landlords of any private rented accommodation will need to apply to be registered with the Local Authority in which they let. This means that all Landlords letting out accommodation in Scotland will now have to be licensed. The only exceptions will be when the Landlord lives in the same property and holiday lets.

Landlords with HMOs will already be licensed under existing HMO licensing rules, but for everybody else it will be an offence to continue letting residential property in Scotland if they have not submitted a valid application to register on the new database.

You can be fined up to £5,000 for non registration and the stopping of rental payments. The objective is to remove more disreputable Landlords from the market by checking that those on the register are "fit and proper" people to let out property. It also aims to ensure that Landlords cooperate with councils to try to reduce tenants' antisocial behaviour.

The Local Authority will run checks to see if the Landlord is a "fit and proper" person. Checks for fraud, drugs, dishonesty, violence and unlawful discrimination or failed to maintain a property properly.

The minimum registration fee is £55 and a further fee of £13.75 for each additional Local Authority area where the Landlord lets. There is also a £11 for each property. If a Landlord has two properties in different Local Authority areas will pay £90.75 but there will be a 10 per cent discount for registering on line.

The registrations will have to be renewed every three years.

N.B. This information should not be relied on for accuracy and is presented here without the responsibility of jml Property Service and the website it is being displayed at. ©jml property Services 03-06


Landlord in Bexley fined for breach of HMO rules

Bexley Magistrates Court, Greater London has fined Ludomir Szulc £99,000. He pleaded guilty to 22 offences brought by the London Borough of Bexley under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. These are the rules that set out the duties of landlords and managers of houses in multiple occupation under the 2004 Housing Act. Environmental health officesrs found uncapped gas pipes in bedrooms, dangerous electrics lacl of adequate fire precautions, badly maintained and filthy bathrooms and kitchen and a lack of hot water to kitchen and sinks.

The original fine was £110,000 but reduced to £99,000 according tothe report in the NLA's magazine "Uk Landlord" March 2009

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See also:

Implications of the Equality Act for Letting agents accepting Landlord instructions - November 2010 - More on this here


Implementation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) England & wales) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and HMOs - Information 17 April 2007 Click Here

How to present your rental property for letting

How not to present your rental property for letting

Going Smoke Free - England July 2007

Buy to Let Uk

Buy to Let Europe

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Energy Performance Certificates for rental property

Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme

Property News

Arbitration - April 2008 - by David Smith - Pain Smith Legal update

Statutory code of Practise on racial equality in housing

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