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POSTED 30 October 2018 General

What is an HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy)?

What is an HMO?

A house in multiple occupancy, or an HMO, refers to a property that is shared by three or more individual tenants. To qualify as an HMO, these tenants must be completely unrelated, have their own tenancy agreement per room and share common areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and halls.

There are a number of properties that typically fit the description of an HMO, these include:

  • Bedsits
  • Shared houses
  • Lodgings
  • Hostels
  • Privately operated halls of residence
  • Asylum seeker, migrant or refugee accommodation
  • Accommodation for workers or employees

Does an HMO need a licence?

Possibly, but not necessarily.

Your HMO needs a licence only if five or more people forming two or more separate households live at the property (a household can be made up of a single person or two or more people from the same family). This is in accordance with new legislation that came into force on 1st October 2018. Previously, in addition to the above criteria, a property had to be over three stories high to require a licence.

It’s important to note that the council has the right to introduce licensing on any HMO operating in its area, so sometimes it is possible for smaller properties to require a licence too. 

If an HMO requires a licence, then the landlord should notify their local authority which will then assess the property to ensure that all tenants living there have sufficient space. The landlord will also be assessed to confirm that they are fit, proper and managing the property correctly.

If both the property and landlord meet the necessary requirements, a licence will be granted. This will include the conditions that need to be met in order for the HMO to continue operating.

To make a valid application, you will need:

  • A current gas safety certificate (if there is gas)
  • A current periodic electrical inspection report
  • A test certificate for the automatic fire detection system (if there is one)
  • A current test certificate for the emergency escape lighting (if there is one)
  • An energy performance certificate (EPC)
  • A written fire risk assessment carried out by a competent person
  • A floor plan, showing the room sizes, the fire protection measures and the kitchen, toilet and bathroom facilities
  • A copy of the tenancy agreement
  • The appropriate fee (you can find out how much you need to pay by going to the GOV UK site


It is an offence if a landlord:

  • Fails to apply for a licence on an HMO that needs one
  • Allows a property to be occupied by more people than is specified in the licence
  • Fails to comply with the conditions of the licence

A landlord who commits an offence may be subject to a number of penalties. They may have their licence revoked and property placed under the management of the council, they could also face fines of up to £30,000. Meanwhile, a tenant can apply to have rent paid back. 

Minimum Standards for HMOs

Whether or not a property requires a licence, a landlord must ensure that their HMO meets certain minimum requirements regarding fire protection, numbers of kitchens and bathrooms, room sizes and general repair and safety.

For further details on minimum standards, pleas go to Shelter England.