Household - A household comprises persons who are all members of the same family (i.e. they are married or co-habiting - regardless of their gender - or one of them is the parent, grandparent, child, stepchild, foster child (under the Fostering Services Regulations 2002), grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin of the other). A domestic employee living in the same household as the employer may be considered part of a single household.

Main Residence - includes occupation by migrant or seasonal workers or by asylum seekers and occupation of certain types of refuges.

Unit of Accommodation - refers to accommodation that is a flat or 'flatlet' and certain large bedsits.

Self Contained Flat - Where all amenities are in accommodation that is behind a door.

Owner occupied - includes properties that are held on long leases of 21 years and over.

Buildings that are not HMOs

The flow chart below may help you in determining whether a property is a HMO.

* It is important that you satisfy yourself as to the property’s status. If you are unsure of whether the property is a HMO or not then please seek adequate professional advice on the matter. It is the landlords responsibility to operate lawfully.

HMO flowchart

Is my House a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

If you are the owner or manager of a rented property, it is important that you know whether the property is a HMO or not.

This is because there are special regulations and arrangements for HMOs and, as a person involved in the control of a HMO, you may be liable to prosecution should you fail to meet your legal obligations.

These obligations include:

  • the requirement to licence a HMO with the Local Authority, and
  • the necessity to ensure that the property is properly managed

If you are a tenant in HMO accommodation, you will also have additional responsibilities and protections as a consequence. For instance:

  • you should not interfere with the actions of a landlord or manager in the performance of his obligations to manage a HMO adequately, and
  • the property you live in will be protected by a strict licensing regime controlled by the Local Authority - and there are other similar statutory protections

More details of the relevant legislation that applies to the above can be found on the Regulations and Legislation page.

The Housing Act 2004 Part 2 introduced the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation, the legislation came into being in Wales on June 30th 2006 and part of its effect was to change the way a HMO was defined.

The act stated that a HMO is a building or part of a building that:

  • 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 facilities
  • Is occupied by more than one household and is a converted building, but is not entirely self-contained flats (whether or not some amenities are shared or lacking), with exemptions in relation to licencing, see below
  • Has been converted to self-contained flats, but does 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

Examples of this may include:

  • properties let to a group of students or friends, or
  • buildings converted into flats or bedsits, or a mixture of both - especially where there is some sharing of amenities

There are a number of exceptions to this, in particular:

  • properties where there are only two occupants - (or two lodgers)
  • blocks of flats that have been purpose built or properly converted into flats - (when each flat is then regarded as a separate property in its own right)
  • properties that are managed by certain recognised organisations that are regulated otherwise (e.g. Housing Associations or University run accommodation)
  • buildings where the principal use is not rented residential accommodation, e.g. Holiday accommodation, or a building that is mostly owner occupied

There are certain other exemptions and a comprehensive list of these can be found in Schedule 14 of The Housing Act 2004 and associated Regulations available here. Where a HMO requires a licence the owner, manager or person having control of the HMO must apply to the Local Authority for such a licence. It is an offence to control or manage a HMO without a licence and may result in a fine of up to £20,000, more information is available at Licencing of HMO's . If you are unsure about the licensable status of your property then we recommend you contact the authority or seek independent legal advice on the need for a licence application to be submitted.

Declaring a Building a House in Multiple Occupation

A Local Authority may declare a building or part of a building to be a house in multiple-occupation provided it satisfies one of the three statutory tests for such houses. The tests are listed in The Housing Act 2004 Section 254 (2)-(4) but may not be a HMO if it is exempt under schedule 14.

If a Local Authority is satisfied that, although not exclusively occupied by people as their main or only home, a building is occupied to a significant degree by such persons (and otherwise the occupation and building satisfies the HMO tests), it may issue a declaration that the building is an HMO. An HMO declaration puts beyond doubt that such a building is to be regarded as an HMO. An appeal can be made to the Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) within 28 days of receiving such a declaration. If an appeal is made, the notice has no effect until a decision is reached by the RPT or further appeal to Lands Tribunal.