Houses - Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

An estimated 3 million people live in Houses in Multiple Occupation or HMOs.

Research has proved that HMOs are in some of the poorest housing conditions.  There is also an increased risk of fire in these dwellings.

A HMO is a building, or part of a building, such as a flat, that:

  • Is occupied by more than one household and where more than one household shares – or lacks, an amenity, such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities.
  • Is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building – but not entirely self-contained flats (whether or not some amenities are shared or lacking).
  • Is converted self-contained flats, but does not meet as a minimum standard the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulation Act, and at least one third of the flats are privately rented.

The Council has adopted standards of fitness and management for HMOs which are designed to help reduce the risk of fire and also manage the facilities provided.  The main areas covered include:

  • Standards relating to escape routes in case there is a fire;
  • Facilities for storing, preparing and cooking food;
  • Providing enough toilets in suitable places;
  • Providing enough personal washing facilities;
  • Providing suitable kitchen facilities;
  • The minimum size of rooms;
  • The number of people who are allowed to live in the property; and
  • General management of the property.

Different categories of HMO have different levels of risk and the standards reflect these.  For example, hostels may need more smoke detectors than houses with lodgers.

The Council has also produced a Home Safety Inspection Checklist to help with the above standards, a downloadable version can be found in the list of documents at the bottom of this page.

Use our HMO 3 Storey Guide to identify what counts as a property of 3 storeys or more in height.

The 2004 Housing Act introduced compulsory licensing of HMOs.

If you can answer YES to the following three questions, then you will probably need an HMO Licence:

  1. Do you consider your house to be a House in Multiple Occupation?
  2. Do you rent a property to 5 or more persons who do not form a single household?
  3. Does the property have three or more stories of living accommodation? (A basement or a bedroom in the roof would each count as one storey).

If you answer NO to any of the above questions, then you probably do not need an HMO Licence.

If you are unsure about whether or not you require a licence, contact the Environmental Services Team who will be happy to advise you.

Adopted Standards of fitness and management for HMOs can be viewed below: