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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

HMOs are defined in section 254 of the Housing Act 2004, as a house or flat let to 3 or more tenants, who form 2 or more households, and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

Also included are buildings entirely converted into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than a third of the flats are let on short term tenancies.

Not all HMOs require a licence. Since the 1 October 2018, HMOs with 5 or more occupants in 2 or more households require a licence under the Housing Act 2004.

Go to National HMO Network for a full explanation of the definitions under the Housing Act (2004).

Government Management Regulations

There are Management Regulations that set out the requirements for managing and maintaining an HMO. The landlord of an HMO must comply with these regulations, which also impose some duties on tenants. It is an offence to fail to comply with the management regulations and landlords or tenants can be prosecuted and fined.  

HMO Licensing

Landlords need an HMO licence if a property has:

  • Five or more tenants forming more than one household.

It is an offence to fail to license an HMO, and landlords can be prosecuted and fined up to £20,000 for failing to licence.

Further details on how to apply, renew or make a change to your licence can be found on our Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licence page.

Fire Safety

Fire safety is a major concern in HMOs because research has shown that fires are more likely to start and spread than in single family dwellings. The council may require additional fire safety measures to be installed in HMOs and will have regard to the guidance on the following Government website before making any requirements of a landlord.

Even in single family dwellings there is now a minimum requirement to have a mains operated smoke detector in the hallway/landing of each storey of any dwelling that is rented out. There must also be a Carbon Monoxide detector in each room that has a solid fuel burning appliance such as an open coal fire.

Planning Permission

Under the Town and Country (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) various "Use Classes" are defined.  Use Class C4 relates to "small" HMOs i.e. those with up to six residents, and Use Class C3 relates to dwelling houses. There is a permitted change from a dwelling house C3 use, to a small HMO C4 use and vice versa but larger HMOs are classified as sui Generis and there is no permitted change from a C3 to a large HMO without applying for planning permission.

Any planning application must be made to the Planning Department and will require the payment of a fee.

Further information can be found on our A Guide to the Planning Service page.

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