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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 an HMO are detailed below (standard test, self-contained flat test and the converted building test).

Whilst the number of HMOs in Warrington is not significant (around 130, of which approximately 53 are licensed [xls], it may increase as a result of the Government's changes to the benefit system, which affect some single people under the age of 35 years. The ways in which houses are used for this type of accommodation 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 an 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 an HMO if it meets the criteria listed in one of the following three "tests", or if it is a converted block of flats [pdf] 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 or 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 [pdf]
  3. It is the only or main residence [pdf] of the occupiers
  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 [pdf] or the living accommodation is lacking in one or more of the basic amenities.

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 an HMO, it can serve a notice declaring the building (or part of the building) to be an 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.