Houses in Multiple Occupation - Licensing and Management

We are responsible for checking Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) to make sure they:

  • are in a satisfactory condition
  • are safe
  • have a satisfactory means of escape from fire
  • have sufficient baths/showers, toilets, wash basins and cooking facilities etc
  • have adequate space for the number of occupants
  • are managed properly

On 6 April 2006 the Housing Act 2004 came into force in relation to HMOs. Under the new legislation there is a requirement for certain "higher risk" HMOs to be licensed by the local authority. These are properties of three or more storeys with five or more occupiers. This allows us to require certain standards and conditions on the person responsible for the HMO and anyone else associated with it.

In addition the person responsible for the management of an HMO has to meet the requirements of the HMO Management Regulations.

What is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

A House in Multiple Occupation is a house, which is occupied by people who do not form a single household. Examples include:

  • a house let as individual bedsitting rooms
  • shared houses
  • hostels, some hotels, guesthouses where some of the occupiers have no other permanent place to live
  • lodgings
  • some houses converted into self-contained flats

Under the Housing Act 2004 the meaning of "occupied" includes occupation:

  • as the only or main residence
  • as a refuge for people escaping domestic violence
  • by students during term time.
  • by migrant workers or seasonal workers
  • by asylum seekers or their dependants

The Housing Act 2004 defines a "household" as:

  • families (including single people, couples and same sex couples)
  • other prescribed relationships eg domestic staff or fostering or carer arrangements.

Unless the occupiers meet one of the above criteria they will not be a single household.

Exemptions from HMO definition

Under the Housing Act 2004 the following properties are excluded from the definition of an HMO:

  • houses with resident landlords plus up to two separate tenants (that means lodgers)
  • houses converted entirely into self-contained flats either to the standard required by the 1991 Building Regulations or where at least two thirds are owner occupied
  • buildings owned or managed by a local authority
  • buildings owned or managed by registered social landlords (such as housing associations)
  • buildings owned or managed by a public body (such as the Police or the NHS)
  • buildings occupied principally for the purposes of a religious community
  • buildings entirely occupied by freeholders or long leaseholders and their families
  • buildings owned or managed by certain specified educational establishments and occupied by full-time students e.g. halls of residence
  • buildings regulated otherwise than by the Act (such as care homes, bail hostels etc.)
  • houses/flats occupied by only two people

Exemptions from licensing

Where the property is an HMO under the new definition, it will not have to be licensed if:

  • it is a building of less than three storeys or with less than five occupiers; or
  • the whole property is converted entirely into self-contained flats.

Note: For licensing purposes, basements and attics are included as storeys if they are occupied or have been converted for occupation. Commercial premises on the ground or any upper floor are also included in the number of storeys but not basements in purely commercial use.

Children are counted as adults for the purposes of licensing.

Who needs to apply for licensing? 

It is an offence under the provisions of the Housing Act 2004 not to apply for a licence where the HMO is of a type which requires licensing. A person who commits this offence is liable to a fine of up to £20,000.

The responsible person (ie the landlord or person having control or managing the HMO) must apply to the Council and pay the appropriate fee. The Council is not permitted to grant a licence unless it is satisfied that the landlord and any manager is a fit and proper person (e.g. does not hold any previous convictions) or employs agents who are.

The Council can also make an interim management order on the building to take over the management of the HMO and it can apply to a Residential Property Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order requiring the responsible person to repay housing benefit paid to the residents.

The tenants can also apply for a Rent Repayment Order and the responsible person will not be permitted to serve a section 21 notice to evict the tenants so long as a licensable HMO remains unlicensed.

Licence fee

The cost of an HMO licence is £575 per property for a new application or £505 for a licence renewal. An additional £100 may be charged for applications received more than three months after the HMO becomes licensable or where applications remain incomplete more than three months after being notified by the Council that an HMO licence is required.

There is a discount of £25 for members of an approved landlords association.

The licence will normally last for five years and is renewable at the end of the term.


All HMOs will have to meet the Council's standards (whether they are licensable or not). These standards include:

  • means of escape in case of fire and other fire precautions
  • amenities such as kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and wash hand basins
  • overcrowding with regards to the number and size of bedrooms
  • absence of serious hazards under the housing health & safety rating system (HHSRS) 
  • management standards
  • gas and electrical safety
  • furniture fire safety

Licence conditions

When a licence is issued it comes with conditions attached to ensure that the standards are achieved and maintained.

If the licence holder knowingly allows the HMO to be occupied by more people than it is licensed for, without a reasonable excuse, this is an offence under the Housing Act 2004 and leaves him liable to a fine of up to £20,000. In some cases the licence could be revoked.

If the licence holder fails to meet the conditions on a licence without a reasonable excuse, this is an offence under the Housing Act 2004 and could lead to a fine of up to £5,000. If the offence is serious or persistent, the licence could be revoked.


Please download an application form and return to us.

HMO Public Register - search for licences online

Search the Public Register Of Licences And Registrations online for a list of current HMO licences.

Page owner: Paula Mackenzie. Last updated: 26/04/2018 15:36