If a house or flat is let to a number of tenants it may be considered a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). An HMO is a property occupied by persons who do not form a single household.
The term “household” is a legal definition which describes either a single person or members of the same family unit who live together. This may include people who are married or living together but not a group of individuals who share a property.
If you are a tenant in shared accommodation, you may live in an HMO.
HMOs must be licenced by the local authority if they are occupied by 5 or more persons (who do not form a single household); or if they are of 3 or more stories (even if occupied by less than 5 persons).
Landlord’s Responsibilities for Health & Safety in HMOs
The landlord’s minimum responsibilities for health and safety are:
- Provide landlord contact details to tenants.
- Keep fire escapes clear and maintain fire fighting equipment and alarms.
- Ensure that the property design and structure will not cause any injury.
- Provide adequate, uninterrupted water supply of potable quality and proper drainage.
- Provide adequate supply of gas (if any) and electricity.
- Check all gas appliances annually and provide a Gas Safety Certificate (if gas is supplied).
- Check electrical safety every 5 years.
- Keep the property and any shared gardens in good repair.
- Provide suitable rubbish disposal.
Obligations as a Landlord
The landlord of an HMO should meet required standards for Tenancy Agreements, protecting tenants’ deposits and respecting tenants’ rights.
Tenancies should be clear written agreements which should cover:
- The length of the lease, when it starts and when it ends.
- The rent that is payable.
- The provisions for the review of rent (if not a fixed term).
- The payment of any deposits, including compliance with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
- Who is responsible for bills and any other charges.
- Arrangements for access, repairs, etc.
- Keeping pets.
Licenced Houses in Multiple Occupation
Where there are 5 or more persons (who are not a single household) who share a property it must be licenced with the local authority. It is an offence for a landlord not to have a licence for any property where one is required.
Before a licence is granted the local authority will inspect the premises and check that it meets minimum criteria which will include:
- Checking that the size of the accommodation, including each room, meets minimum standards laid down by the local authority.
- That the facilities provided for cooking, washing and sanitary facilities are adequate and appropriate.
- That the property complies with all necessary fire precautions, including means of escape, fire fighting equipment, emergency lighting and fire alarm.
- That the property is in an adequate state of repair.
- That the landlord complies with his obligations for gas and electrical safety.
- That the landlord has proper management procedures in place for ensuring that the property is kept to the minimum standards required.
- That the landlord and / or agent is a “fit and proper” person.
In considering a licence, the local authority will also consider whether the landlord is a “fit and proper person” to manage a house in multiple occupation. Where the landlord employs a managing agent this will extend to that agent.
Matters to which the local authority have regard in considering whether a landlord / agent is a fit and proper person include:
- Any offence involving fraud or other dishonesty, or violent or drugs.
- Any offences under the Sex Offences Act 2003.
- Practiced unlawful discrimination of the law in the carrying out of any business.
- Contravention of any provision of the law relating to housing or landlord and tenant law.
- Any other actions in contravention of any Code of Practice for the management of HMOs.
If you are considering renting a property which will be occupied by 5 or more persons you should ensure that it is a properly licenced house in multiple occupation.