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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A guide to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Not everybody can live in a property with exclusive use of space and amenities.  Some people live in what are known as 'houses in multiple occupation' - or HMOs for short.  The legal definition of an HMO can get quite complex, but effectively it is where three or more people who are not living as one household share amenities or space such as a kitchen, bathroom, toilet and sometimes a living room.

HMOs form a vital part of the housing market, catering often for people with mobile lifestyles and those on a budget.  Some HMOs are specifically designed and built for that purpose, others are converted from larger properties or sometimes from regular housing stock.  Most will be OK, but living in an HMO can provide different risks - for example from fire, overcrowding, poor repair or mismanagement.  Specific laws and standards apply to HMOs and the Council are the main regulating body, sometimes with the local Fire Service, the Health and Safety Executive, and Trading Standards.

From the Council's viewpoint, there are 2 main types of HMO - those which require a licence, and those which do not.

HMOs which must currently have a licence to operate are those which are at least 3 storeys, and have five or more people living as two or more households.  It is the landlords responsibility - or their agents - to notify the Council and to apply for a licence which must be granted before they allow it to be occupied. Tenants should not sub-let to create an HMO without the knowledge or permission of their landlord or agent.  Licenced HMOs are inspected on payment of an application fee, and have to reach a minimum standard to be granted the licence which lasts for five years - though it can be revoked if standards drop or the licence holder is prosecuted.  Routine re-inspections are conducted to maintain safety.

To apply or renew a HMO licence online click here or download an application pack and view the government guidance. 

If you operate a licensable HMO without a licence, you may be fined in Court and may have to repay up to a year's rent or benefits.

The register of licensed HMOs is a public document which the Council must make available to view - you can see it here.

Other HMOs which do not require a licence still have to meet standards of management which include fire safety, maintenance and cleanliness of common parts, please view the HMO 'management regulations.

If you want to start using a property as an HMO or convert one to that use, check first with the local Planning department and Building Control if appropriate.  Make sure your mortgage and insurance companies are aware - they may need to give permission.

Like all other domestic property - rented or not, shared or otherwise - homes need to be safe to live in and affordable to heat.  The Housing Health and Safety Rating System applies to almost all accommodation with a very few exceptions - even owner-occupied homes!  If you are a landlord or tenant with concerns or questions, you can ask the Council's private sector housing team for advice, and they have powers to intervene in dangerous situations.  The Council also has a landlord forum which is free to join and attend.  We may also get involved in cases of alleged harassment and illegal eviction. 

Don't forget, if you live in a rented property with gas appliances, they must have an annual inspection and certification by a qualified professional, your tenant's deposit should be in an approved tenancy deposit scheme, and you should issue new tenants with the official 'How To Rent checklist' and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (the requirement for an EPC does not currently apply to HMO's) - failure to do that may interfere with your rights to eventually evict the tenant or ask them to leave. 

Also smoke alarms are now mandatory for each occupied floor of rented homes, with carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with solid fuel appliances - see the current guidance. You must provide, test, demonstrate (to tenants), record that you have done so - and diary the next annual check or on change of tenancy. 

You may also carry out pre-renting immigration status checks as advised under the 'right to rent' system - to avoid a fixed penalty for renting to illegal immigrants.

Please refer to the Council's Enforcement Policy.

Last updated Thursday, 16th November 2017

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