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Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

There are special rules for properties that are classed as 'Houses in Multiple Occupation' (HMO).

Most student houses and bedsit type properties will be HMOs - and also many properties that have been converted into flats. To find out whether your property might be a HMO please visit our Houses in Multiple Occupation pages.

Certain types of rented properties are termed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). As the term implies, this is where the property or dwelling is not occupied by a single family. There are special rules that apply to these type of properties, designed to ensure that the properties are safe and are well managed. This is largely achieved through a licensing regime. If you want to know whether the property you operate may be classed as an HMO, please visit our Houses in Multiple Occupation pages.

As the person in control of a property it is important for you to know whether your property is a HMO, because, if so, you may have certain additional rights and responsibilities.

  • A HMO must be managed properly - and failure of the manager or landlord to do so can be a criminal offence
  • A HMO must be licenced with the Council. This will ensure that the property is suitable for the number of occupants and that the management arrangements are acceptable
  • Occupants of a HMO (and those of neighbouring properties) can be protected from serious harm by the Council taking over the management of the property (where this is appropriate and the property is unlikely to become licenced)
  • Where Landlords are convicted of failing to licence a HMO, tenants can make a claim for rent repayments
  • Tenants of a HMO must reasonably allow the management to carry out their duties - and deliberately obstructing them from doing so can be an offence. Examples of obstruction can include any action that does not allow the manager to carry out duties as laid down in the 'Management Regulations'. Managers are expected to report tenants to the Council in such circumstances. Information on what these duties are can be found on our Management Responsibilities page
  • If your tenants occupy an 'unlicenced HMO' under either a joint or separate Assured Shorthold Tenancy, you will not be able to evict them using a 'section 21 notice'. This means that you cannot evict without 'grounds' - such as non payment of rent. (A property ceases to be an 'unlicenced HMO' once an application for licencing or temporary exemption from licensing is made)

If your tenants think that you are failing to manage your property properly, or the property is in a poor condition, they may bring this to the attention of the Council. The Council will investigate their concerns and may take proceedings against the manager if appropriate.

The HHSRS, HMOs and links with licensing

The HMO licensing regime gives local authorities the ability to assess the fitness of a person to be a licence holder, assess management arrangements of a HMO, the suitability of the HMO for number of occupants and to ensure the adequate provision of equipment and facilities in a licensable HMO. Where all these matters are assessed by the local authority as being satisfactory then a licence should be issued following a full and complete application being received. The authority may also attach conditions to a licence to ensure satisfactory arrangements are made for these items. The authority is also required to undertake an assessment using the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) which looks to identify and remedy any risks and hazards identified in the premises. Although separate to the licensing process it is closely linked and will usually form part of the licensing inspection, more details on HHSRS assessments can be found on our Housing Health and Safety Rating System page.

Assessments using the HHSRS in a HMO will include:

  • those rooms and areas of the dwelling which are in exclusive occupation (i.e. not shared in common with others)
  • any rooms or areas (whether internal or external) which are shared with others
  • the means of access to the dwelling; and
  • the building associated with the dwelling

The HHSRS covers the whole range of hazards stemming from physical factors likely to be experienced in all types of housing, including HMOs. HMO type of accommodation has long been regarded as being of higher risk to health and safety than single household dwellings. As a licence holder for a HMO you may therefore be required to undertake additional improvements to a dwelling to mitigate any significant hazards identified by inspectors. This will usually form a separate schedule of works and under most circumstances will not affect the licensing process. You can find more information on the HMO licensing regime at our HMO pages. You can also view information on courses of action available to local authorities following HHSRS assessments and the identification of significant health and safety hazards on our Local Authority Duties and Powers page.