HMO & rules regarding renting a property to many tenants

Last updated: December 2020 | 3 min read

What is meant by a House in Multiple Occupation?

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) property that is rented out to multiple households who live together and share common facilities. It can be any type of property - it does not have to be a house.

A property is classed as an HMO if there are at least three tenants in the property who between them form more than one household, and who share common facilities such as a kitchen and a bathroom or a toilet.

A household is defined as a single person, or members of the same family who live together, or a couple living together.

For example, a flat with two bedrooms, let to three people, two of whom are in a long-term relationship with each other is classed as an HMO.

Landlord’s obligations

Because in an HMO tenants tend to live in close proximity to the other households, the landlord has additional responsibilities towards health and safety. These are:

  • Ensuring that fire safety prevention measures such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are in place.

  • Regularly carrying out gas safety checks (at least every year) and electricity safety checks (at least every five years).

  • Repairing communal areas (in particular the kitchen, the bathroom and any separate toilet), the structure of the property (such as windows and gutters), and anything necessary for the supply of water gas and electricity (for example, pipes and radiators).

Licensing for large HMOs

In addition, if the property is classed as a large HMO, the landlord is required to obtain a licence from the local council before the property can be rented out.

If the landlord does not obtain a licence, he or she can be fined and ordered to repay up to 12 months’ rent to the tenants. However, more seriously, if an HMO should be licensed but hasn’t been, the landlord is unable to issue a notice to occupy, and therefore cannot ask the tenants to leave nor repossess the property.

An HMO becomes large if the building is at least three storeys high and if there are at least five tenants in the property who form more than one household between them.

A building intended to be let as a large HMO is usually checked by the council to make sure that it meets an acceptable standard (in terms of health and safety) for letting to so many people.

For example, a taller building might require additional fire escapes.

In addition, the landlord may need to submit character references to show that he or she is fit and proper, in other words, likely to maintain the property for the tenants.

If you are a landlord, you should be aware that some councils require that you obtain a licence even if your property is not a large HMO. You should check before letting.

A licence usually lasts for five years, but some councils grant them the shorter periods of time so that the landlord has to reapply more regularly. This allows a council to check the condition of the property more often.

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