Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

What is a HMO?

This can be a building which is:

  • Occupied by more than one household and where more than one household shares - or lacks - an amenity such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facility
  • Occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building - but not entirely self-contained flats (Whether or not some amenities are shared or lacking)
  • Converted self-contained flats that do not meet, as a minimum standard, the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulation, and at least one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies

These can provide an important supply of housing, often to vulnerable or disadvantaged households. HMO's are buildings or part of a building, such as a flat, where people share a kitchen, bathroom or cooking facility.

What is a household?

Household means that if individuals are not of the same family, either by blood, marriage or some other recognised means (such as fostering or adoption) they will be classed as separate households. 

For example, four individuals living together in a house who are not related would be deemed to constitute four households.

HMO licensing

The people who live in HMOs are amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society. As HMO's are the only housing option for many people, it is vital that they are properly regulated. Local authorities have procedures to assess personal fitness of licence-holders, management standards and whether a property is suitable for the number of occupants living in it and whether there is adequate facilities. This enables authorities to consider discomfort and inconvenience as licensing issues.

Which HMO's need a licence?

Under the Housing Act 2004 [external link], larger HMOs that are 3 or more storeys and occupied by 5 or more persons forming at least 2 separate households are required to be licensed.

With effect from 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing of HMOs will be extended so that smaller properties used as HMOs in England which house 5 people or more in 2 or more separate households will in many cases require a licence. The requirement for three of more storeys for a property to need a licence will be removed.

New mandatory conditions to be included in licences have also been introduced, prescribing national minimum sizes for rooms used as sleeping accommodation and requiring landlords to adhere to council refuse schemes.

More information can be found in The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 [external link].

Will there be a fee?

Yes - a separate fee will be set for each property. A licence may not relate to more than one property and is not transferable to a different property, or to a different person.

Additional charges may also be made for work carried out in connection with your HMO not covered by the initial licence fee. You will receive a breakdown of what your licence fee pays for. A licence will normally last for a maximum of five years, although it can be for a shorter period.

Who is a 'fit and proper person'?

We will decide who is a fit and proper person to be granted a HMO licence.

The application form will ask you about details of:

  • Any unspent convictions you may have for offences involving fraud or other dishonesty, or violence or drugs or any offence listed in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • Any unlawful discrimination on grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origins or disability in or in connection with, the carrying on of any business
  • Any contravention of any provision of the law relating to housing or of landlord and tenant law: (including any civil proceedings that resulted in a judgement against you

If you do not declare unspent convictions you will be committing a criminal offence and will be subject to a fine of up to £5000. There is also every likelihood that when this comes to light your licence will be denied or revoked.

Simply because someone has an unspent conviction for one of these offences does not mean that they will automatically be denied a licence. Each application will have to be considered on its merits and the circumstances of an offence and its relevance to the licence application should be taken into account.

We can advise you if you are unsure about whether you would be considered a fit and proper person to hold a licence or manage a licence.

Can you refuse to licence?

Yes, if the property does not meet the conditions described and the landlord or manager is not a fit and proper person.

What will happen then?

If a landlord fails to bring an HMO up to the required standard, or fails to meet the fit and proper person criteria, we can issue an interim management order (IMO), which allows us to step in and manage the property. The owner keeps their rights as an owner. This order can last for a year until suitable permanent management arrangements can be made.

If there has been no improvement, then we can issue a final management order.

This can last up to five years and can be renewed.

Can I make an appeal?

You may appeal if we decide to:

  • refuse a licence
  • grant a licence with conditions
  • revoke a licence
  • vary a licence
  • refuse to vary a licence.

You must appeal to the residential property tribunal, normally within 28 days.

Temporary exemption from licensing

If a landlord or person in control of a property intends to stop operating it as an HMO or reduces the numbers of occupants and can give clear evidence of this, then he or she can apply for a temporary exemption notice.

This lasts for a maximum of three months and ensures that a property in the process of being converted from an HMO does not need to be licensed. If the situation is not resolved, then a second temporary exemption Notice can be issued.

When this runs out the property must be licensed, become subject to an interim management order, or cease to be an HMO.

What are the minimum standards set for HMOs?

The Government has specified minimum amenity standards, setting out the requirements for kitchens, bathrooms and toilets in an HMO.

What are the minimum Space Standards and amenity standards?

New space standards are contained in the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018 [external link]

Local Authorities may also use their own amenity standards if they are equal to or higher than the minimum standards. Standards covering things such as room sizes and fire precautions have been set locally in the Standard Management conditions.

If your property does not hold enough amenities for the number of tenants the local housing authority can either:

  • Grant a licence with conditions that extra amenities will be put in within a specified time frame;
  • grant a licence for a smaller number of occupants based on the amenities which are installed;
  • In properties with the worst conditions they may decide not to grant a licence at all if they cannot be brought up to required standards.

Standard management conditions [pdf document]

Are there any other standards set for HMO's?

HMO's that do not require a licence must still comply with the appropriate standards.

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 [external link] set down duties of both managers and occupiers for any HMO property.

Self-contained flats in converted buildings are subject to theThe Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007 [external link].

Useful information