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HMO Regulations

Written by Sam | June 17, 2018

Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

Definition of HMO by GOV.uk: A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (eg a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

For a house to be a HMO it has to meet certain requirements, these requirements are health and safety related to protect the tenants. In this blog we are going to tell you some of the requirements of a HMO. But why, are we telling you this? Because, if you are a student living in a house, it is likely to be a HMO. Landlords split house in to a HMO rather than a single buy to let because they can rent out each room, rather than the whole house. For the landlord it means that they can get a higher yield on the house, and allow more students to live in the house. Also a good point about HMO’s is that each tenant can be put on a separate contract, this means that if your housemate leaves University early, you won’t have to pick up their rent because you are on a separate contract.

WHY are we telling you this? Because many landlords might not be meeting the regulations to keep you SAFE. If they aren’t, we want to give you the knowledge, so that you can make sure you are safe in your own student home!!


If you live in an HMO your landlord has to meet extra responsibilities which are in addition to their repair responsibilities. These are on:

  • Fire and general safety – mainly the provision of properly working smoke and/or heat detectors with alarms and a safe means of escape in case of fire, e.g Fire doors.
  • Water supply and drainage – these cannot be unreasonably interrupted and must be kept clean and in good repair
  • Gas and electricity – appliances and installations must be safe, which includes arranging an annual gas safety check and having electrical installations checked at least every five years
  • Communal areas – such as staircases, halls, corridors and entrances, must be kept in good decorative repair, clean and reasonably free from obstructions
  • Waste disposal – there must be enough bins for rubbish and adequate means of disposing of rubbish
  • Living accommodation – the living accommodation and any furniture supplied must be clean and in good repair.

What can you do?

If your landlord isn’t meeting these standards you could try and speak to them about it. If they don’t do anything, you could contact the local authority. It can carry out an inspection and can take enforcement action if the property:

  • poses a risk to your health and safety
  • is poorly managed
  • is unsuitable for the number of people who live there
  • should be licensed but is not.

Many local council now have an accredited landlord service which means that those landlords meet certain standards which make them good landlords! Find these landlords, it should say on their website!

Which HMOs need a licence?

All larger HMOs must be licensed and this is called mandatory licensing. A HMO needs a licence if it has:

  • three storeys or more, and
  • is occupied by five or more people who form two or more households.

There is also additional licensing. This is where a local authority extends licensing to other types of HMO in its area. You can check with your local authority to see if any such conditions apply to where you live.

Before granting a licence the local authority must be satisfied that:

  • the property is suitable for a certain maximum number of people to live there, and
  • the person holding the licence and the person managing the HMO are fit and proper persons, and
  • the property is managed properly.

What happens if your landlord doesn’t have a licence?

If your landlord doesn’t have a licence, hasn’t applied for one or has not been temporarily exempted from licensing, then:

  • they can be prosecuted and fined up to £20,000
  • they cannot serve a section 21 notice (under the Housing Act 1988), which is the start of a legal process to evict an assured shorthold tenant
  • you may be able to reclaim up to twelve months’ worth of rent that you paid during the time that the HMO wasn’t licensed. This is called a rent repayment order and an application should be made to the First-tier Tribunal in England or a Residential Property Tribunal in Wales.

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