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. Living in an HMO can provide different risks - for example from fire, overcrowding, poor repair or mismanagement.
The current HMO Standards Guide can also be found here.
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.
Fire Safety Standards
There is published guidance on Fire Alarm and Fire Door Specifications for HMOs, which can be found in the Guide to Fire and Security Protection in Multi-occupied Residential Properties and LACORS Housing-Fire Safety Guidance Document
From 1 October 2018 the criteria for a licensable HMO has changed to remove the 3 storey requirement. This means that any property, regardless of the number of storeys, that is let to 5 or more people, in 2 or more households, who also share some amenities such as bathroom/kitchen facilities, will require a HMO licence from the local authority. Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council will be able to accept licence applications for both Nuneaton and Bedworth and North Warwickshire based properties.
If you have a property that you believe may require a licence, or require clarification on whether your property falls within the new licensing criteria please contact the Private Sector Housing Team. You can apply online using the Gov.uk website
Failure to submit a fully completed application form by 1 October 2018 will be an offence under the Housing Act 2004 and carries an unlimited fine on conviction in a Magistrates Court, or a Civil Penalty of up to £30,000 imposed by the Council. The onus is on you as the landlord of the property to make your application before this deadline as no extension will be granted. Please ensure the correct fee and required certificates are submitted with your application.
The Private Sector Housing Team is now accepting applications in advance of this deadline and we encourage you to apply as early as possible.
Licensing a HMO
From the Council's viewpoint, there are 2 main types of HMO - those which require a licence, and those which do not.
It is the landlord's 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. 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.
This policy sets out the framework for the licensing of HMOs in Nuneaton and Bedworth and ensures the Council takes an open, fair and consistent approach in relation to licensing and enforcement - you can see it here
If you want to start using a property as a 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.
Legislation and Enforcement
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 also refer to the Council's Enforcement Policy.
We partner with North Warwickshire Borough Council to deliver a joint Private Sector Housing Service and undertake the service on their behalf.
Last updated Monday, 15th July 2019