What is a House in Multiple Occupation? (HMO) | The Tenants' Voice
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What is a House in Multiple Occupation?

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what is a house in multiple occupation

In this article

What is an HMO – the legal definition of what makes a house to rent a House in Multiple Occupation.
HMO licensing – what are the circumstances in which an HMO landlord must obtain a licence from the local authority and the penalties for not doing so.


A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is essentially a property that is occupied by a certain number of renters (as defined below) who are unrelated to eachother – so, not a family home.

There are many situations in which an HMO may exist, for example a hostel, a shared house where each of the tenants has a separate lease, a B&B that is not just used for holidays and some types of shared student accommodation. Where a property is considered to be an HMO there are additional responsibilities for a landlord to consider. In some situations a licence may also have to be obtained.

What is an HMO?

The Housing Act 2004 is the legislation that contains the definition of an HMO. There are essentially three characteristics that will make a property an HMO – these are:

– A property that is a flat or a house that is being let to two or more households of three or more unrelated tenants where there are shared facilities, such as a bathroom.
– A converted property of non-self contained flats – for example bedsits with shared bathroom or kitchen facilities.
– A converted property of self-contained flats where conversion has not met the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations (for example, ‘proper materials’ have not been used) and more than one-third of the flats have been let on short-term tenancies.

What makes an HMO unique?

In addition to the standard rights that most private tenants have, there are also management regulations that apply to all HMOs. These place a responsibility on a good landlord to carry out a number of checks and impose maintenance standards. For more information on these responsibilities take a look at our [blog].

HMOs and council tax

Where a property can be defined as an HMO it is usually the owner of that property who is responsible for paying the council tax, rather than the tenants occupying it. However, this is not set in stone and the rental arrangements between the parties may require something different. Given the potential confusion over the council tax issue this should be clarified by tenants before moving in.

When is an HMO licence required?

There is a requirement for a landlord to register an HMO with the council in certain circumstances. These circumstances are designed to cover those that are considered to be potentially high risk.

Your home will be an HMO that needs a licence where it is:

– three or more storeys high.
– home to two or more separate households.
– home to five or more unrelated people.

Licences are normally issued for five years. If a property falls into the above criteria but a landlord does not obtain a licence then the landlord can be taken to court and there is the possibility of fines of up to £20,000. Whilst this might not seem relevant to tenants, if your landlord is suddenly fined £20,000 you may find that your home is jeopardised by his or her financial issues, so it is always a good idea to check that the correct licencing is in place by making enquiries with the local authority.

Where to go for help and advice

If you need further information on dealing with issues relating to HMOs then first take a look at our other help and advice articles, which include [TITLE][TITLE]. Should you need to take further action then we would recommend that you contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or speak to the charity Shelter. You can also contact the environmental health department of your local authority for assistance with HMO issues and to complain about a landlord.

In summary

An HMO is a property where there are three or more unrelated tenants sharing common facilities, such as a kitchen or bathroom.

An HMO which is more than three storeys high, home to two or more households or five or more unrelated people will require an HMO licence, which is obtained from a local authority.

An HMO landlord has management responsibilities that place obligations on him or her with respect to issues such as safety and maintenance.

HMO tenants may not be liable for council tax.

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 https://www.shelter.org.uk/ 0808 800 4444

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