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What is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property (house or flat) which is let out to 3 or more tenants, who form 2 or more households and who share a living room, kitchen, bathroom or toilet. The property must be the tenants only or main residence.

Houses in multiple occupation provide valuable much needed accommodation but can also be amongst the most hazardous places to live. Various pieces of legislation have been produced to ensure that the standards of HMO’s are maintained to ensure the safety of the tenants. HMO’s may also be assessed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Management of HMO regulations

All properties meeting the above HMO definition need to ensure that they comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006. These regulations, produced by the government, require anyone who manages an HMO observes proper standards of repair, cleanliness and maintenance throughout the property.

HMO licence

In addition, some HMOs will also require a licence from the council if the property meets the following criteria:

  • occupied by five or more people, forming two or more households; AND
  • tenants share facilities such as kitchen or bathrooms

Purpose built flats will also come within the definition, where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both of the flats are occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households.  This will apply regardless of whether the block is above or below commercial premises. This will bring certain flats above shops on high streets within mandatory licensing as well as small blocks of flats which are not connected to commercial premises.

It is the individual HMO that is required to be licensed and not the building within which the HMO is situated. This means that where a building has two flats and each is occupied by 5 persons living in 2 or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

Apply for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence

You must apply for a licence as soon as your property becomes licensable or if you are purchasing it, as soon as you take control of the property.

Housing health and safety rating system

Housing standards may also be assessed in HMOs using the housing health and safety rating system and the council may require work to be carried out if any serious ‘category 1’ hazards are identified.