How to Take Action Against an HMO Landlord | The Tenants' Voice
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How to Take Action Against an HMO Landlord

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last updated: 28 May 2016 report a problem

how to take action against an hmo landlord

This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.
The Tenants’ Voice advises that Tenants act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to a tenancy but if you suspect you are experiencing an infringement of your rights that you seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter 0808 800 4444

In this article

• How to take action if you are living in an HMO where the landlord is not fulfilling their responsibilities to the occupants
• What is the Housing Health Safety Rating System and how does it relate to occupants of HMOs?


Many renters in the UK live in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), whether it is a hostel, a B&B that is not just used for holidays, or student housing. The nature of HMOs is that they have more occupants than other types of rented properties (for more information on what an HMO is you can read through our guide to the basics of HMOs here) and unfortunately this can sometimes lead to unscrupulous landlords who are more intent on taking rents from the multiple occupants than providing a safe and well maintained place to live.

Numerous safeguards have been put in place to ensure that landlords who do not meet their responsibilities with respect to HMOs do not remain in control of them for very long and there is action that tenants who rent a property can take to help themselves.

Before you complain about a landlord

– First, inform yourself about the rights that you have and the responsibilities that the landlord of an HMO has to renters – we have a handy checklist that will help you do this [LINK TO OTHER ARTICLE].

– Next, try talking to your landlord as they may not be aware that they are not meeting the basic standards for an HMO prescribed by law (if you need more information on the protections provided for HMOs by the law then take a look at our guide on the subject). It can be a good idea to take someone with you when you talk to the landlord, both to make sure that you get your point across and to serve as a witness to the conversation.

– If you need more information after your conversation with the landlord then the charity Shelter may well be able to answer questions, or you can also try the Citizens Advice Bureau.

– If your conversation has not proved effective then try putting your issues in writing in a signed and dated letter. This often provides a motivation for a good landlord to do something about problems that have arisen.

Taking action against an HMO landlord

If it is quite clear that your landlord is not going to respond to the issues that you have raised then you can contact the environmental health department of your local authority. The local authority will look at the hazards that are present in the HMO and assess them on the basis of the Housing Health Safety Rating System. It is possible for a local authority to take a landlord to court if they are failing to meet the legal requirements to be an HMO landlord and the penalties can be serious, with fines reaching up to £20,000.

Where the local authority finds that there is an immediate danger to health, safety and well-being – either of the occupants of the HMO or anyone in the area – then it can take control of the HMO away from the landlord.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

The HHSRS is used to assess whether or not rented properties meet the required standards that mean that they are fit to be occupied and safe to live in. If you complain about a landlord to your local authority then this system will be used to judge whether or not the HMO is hazardous.

In general, the HHSRS is designed for situations where conditions are so bad that they create a serious nuisance to those in the surrounding area and to the public, and where the property is in such a state that the occupants’ health is at risk. For example:

– Vermin infestations
– Damaged asbestos
– Sewage or rubbish issues as a result of blocked drains
– Decayed staircases or broken glass
– Dangerous or faulty gas or electric systems and installations
– Damp, mould or condensation that is so bad that it is hazardous

Illegal Eviction

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence in the UK and a landlord cannot remove a tenant without following the proper channels. If you find that, after making a complaint to the landlord, they have suddenly removed you from the property then this might be an illegal eviction. For example, where they have changed the locks, physically thrown you out or threatened you in some way to try and make you leave. If you are illegally evicted you should contact the police as well as the tenancy relations officer at your local authority.

In summary

• If you have problems with your landlord that relate to the state of the property then trying talking to them first.

• Where the response is not satisfactory, contact the environmental health department of your local authority who will assess the property in terms of health hazards and nuisance issues.

• You cannot be evicted by your landlord for highlighting a problem with the property.

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