Houses in multiple occupation

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.
  • Sub-letting.
  • 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.