Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

What is a HMO?

A House in Multiple Occupation or HMO is basically a dwelling occupied by residents who do not form a single household.  The three tests used to determine whether or not a property is actually a HMO are detailed below (standard test, self-contained flat test and converted building test).

Currently only HMOs with 5 or more people and 3 or more storeys are licensable. 47 are licensed [XLS]. From October 2018 all HMOs with 5 or more occupants will need a licence and the number of licensable HMOs will increase significantly. The ways in which houses are used as HMOs vary from the traditional bed-sit, where each letting may have its own kitchen facilities but occupiers share bathroom facilities, to house-share properties where a group of unrelated people, rent the whole house between them, and share all the facilities, expenses and liabilities.  This latter type of HMO is often popular with students and young professionals.

A House in Multiple Occupation is defined in sections 254 and 257 of the Housing Act 2004.  If a building which would otherwise be a HMO is owned and operated by certain public bodies [PDF], then they are exempt from the HMO requirements of the Housing Act 2004.

A building or part of a building can be a HMO if it meets the criteria listed in one of the following three “tests”, or if it is a converted block of flats [external link] which meets certain other criteria:

  1. The converted building test
    1. it is a converted building (or part of a building)
    2. it contains one or more units of living accommodation that are not self-contained flats (although it may also have self-contained flats)
    3. the occupants do not form a single household
    4. it is the only main residence of the occupiers
    5. the only use of the accommodation is living accommodation and
    6. rent or “service in kind” is payable by at least one occupier
  2. The standard test
    1. the building consists of one or more units of living accommodation not consisting of a self-contained flat(s)
    2. the occupants do not form a single household [external link]
    3. it is the only or main residence [external link]
    4. the only use of the accommodation is living accommodation
    5. rent or “service in kind” is payable by at least one occupier, and
    6. two or more of the households share at least one of the basic amenities [external link]
  3. The self contained flat test
    1. the accommodation is a self-contained flat and
    2. items 2 to 6 of the standard test apply

Where the local housing authority is satisfied that the building is a HMO, it can serve a notice declaring the building (or part of the building) to be a HMO.  In order to do so, the building must pass one of the 3 tests previously detailed and the occupation of the building, by persons who do not form a single household, constitutes a significant use of that accommodation.