Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
An HMO is a house or flat which is occupied by three or more people forming two or more households, which means that at least one of the occupiers is not related to the others (two if the owner lives in the property with them).
Some HMOs require licences.
What is an HMO?
To be an HMO some facilities must be shared, such as a toilet, bathroom or kitchen. In other words, the occupiers do not have these facilities self-contained within their personal accommodation.
We maintain a register of licensed HMOs in the borough.
Advice for tenants
- Shelter provides advice for tenants of Houses in Multiple Occupation
- Guidance about fire safety in shared or rented accommodation (GOV.UK)
Advice for landlords
The Regulations impose duties on a person managing an HMO in respect of:
- Providing information to occupiers
- Taking safety measures, including fire safety
- Maintaining the water supply and drainage
- Supplying and maintaining gas and electricity, including having it regularly inspected
- Maintaining common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
- Maintaining living accommodation
- Providing waste disposal facilities
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places duties on the person having control of an HMO to have fire precautions in place, to make sure the property is safe and to carry out fire risk assessments.
Landlords should read the Guidance for Fire Safety(pdf, 1455KB) and make sure there are appropriate means of escape and fire detection systems according to the type of property and the way it is used. For example, a house containing individual bedsits each with cooking facilities will require a much higher level of protection than a shared house with a single kitchen.
You must make sure:
- The house is suitable for the number of occupants in terms of size and facilities
- The manager of the house is considered to be ‘fit and proper’, for example has no criminal record, has not breached housing laws or codes of practice
You must also:
- Arrange an Annual Gas Safety check by a Gas Safe Registered engineer and obtain an updated gas safety certificate every year
- Arrange an electrical safety check by a qualified electrician at least every five years and obtain an updated Periodic Electrical Installation Condition Report
- Install and maintain smoke alarms on each floor and if necessary in each room (a heat detector in a kitchen)
- Obtain safety certificates for all portable electrical appliances
- Provide enough refuse bins for tenants, and written information about the proper storage and collection arrangements of household waste and recycling material
A HMO licence is required if all of the following apply:
- It has five or more occupiers comprising two or more separate households, regardless of number of storeys
- It is a house or self-contained flat but is not a purpose-built flat situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats
- Some or all of the occupants share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities
- At least one of the occupants pays rent (or the accommodation is linked to their employment)
- It is the occupiers' main residence
- It is not an exempt property such as a student hall of residence, or owned or managed by the council, a social landlord or the NHS
The government has produced a HMO guidance document covering the new regulations.
Operating a licensable HMO without a licence is an offence which can be dealt with by a financial penalty or a conviction in court.
From 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing is no longer limited to HMOs that are three or more storeys high, but includes buildings with one or two storeys.
Please note that gas safety certificates (where applicable) must be provided to the council on an annual basis for all licensed HMOs. Failure to do so could result in the council taking enforcement action.
Planning permission is required for HMOs occupied by seven or more people.
View our Planning section for more information about Planning and any other queries in relation to HMOs.
Telephone: 0208 545 3025
Up to: Privately rented properties
Updated: 24 February 2021