Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is essentially a property in which 3 or more tenants reside forming more than a single household and sharing toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.

Mandatory licensing of HMOs came into force in 2006.

What is an HMO?

The Standard Test for a property as a HMO is:

  1. It has one or more units of living accommodation which are not self-contained flats
  2. It is occupied by people who do not form a single household
  3. It is the occupier’s only or main home
  4. The living accommodation is used only for that purpose
  5. At least one of the occupiers pays rent or other payments
  6. At least two of the households in the living accommodation share one or more basic amenities being toilets, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities or one or more basic amenities are lacking.

The Self Contained Test applies where part of a building is a self contained flat that meets points 2-6 above.

The Converted Building Test applies where part of a building is a converted building that meets points 2-6 above.


Schedule 14 of The Housing Act 2004 lists properties that are not HMOs e.g. if occupied by owners (with the freehold or lease for more than 21 years). The exceptions to the rule that it must be the occupier’s main and principal home include migrants and seasonal workers where accommodation is provided partly in consideration for their employment by or on behalf of the employer and asylum seekers or any dependents.

Basic Standards for HMOs

All HMOs must meet the same health and safety standards as any other property under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) around the following:

  • Safety measures
  • Water supply and drainage
  • Gas and electricity
  • Common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
  • Waste disposal facilities, and
  • Occupier requirements.

Local Authority Powers

Local authorities have powers to serve different types of notices requiring the recipient manager or owner to take specific action. If this is not done, local authorities have the power to carry out any specified work and recover costs from the owner.

The local authority can also serve interim or final management orders if there is a health and safety risk to occupiers and has the power to bring empty property into occupation. It may also serve a notice if an HMO is overcrowded.

Licensing of HMOs

Some HMOs are required to have a ‘mandatory licence’. There is also a ‘selective licence’ where the local authority may decide a property should be licensed if they are not happy with how it is being managed, for example. Steps for granting a licence are set out in the Housing Act 2004. In addition, there are a number of mandatory conditions that must be attached to any grant of a licence and the local authority can set other conditions relating to management of the property.

It is an offence for anyone to let an HMO without a licence in a licensed area. This can apply to managing agents. Fines of up to £20,000 can be given.

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This article is published by Domus Estate and Letting Agency Software.

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