Houses in multiple occupancy (HMO)

A ‘House in Multiple Occupation’ is legally defined under sections 254 (and 257) of the Housing Act of 2004. The current definition under s254 actually comprises a series of ‘tests’ which are applied to the premises concerned. If the building (or part of the building) meets all the conditions set out in any of these tests, then it is a HMO.

The term ‘HMO’, cover s a wide range of property types and styles. The following examples are all HMO’s:

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants, who form two or more ‘households’ and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants, who form two or more ‘households’ and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats that are not wholly self contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet, even though these may be provided elsewhere in the building and may be dedicated for the sole use of that particular occupier) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form two or more ‘households’.
  • A building (or part of a building) which is converted and consists entirely of self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and where more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies. (Section 257 HMO)
  • A building where the Local Housing Authority (LHA) has served a ‘HMO Declaration’ under section 255 of the Housing Act 2004

In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants’ only or main residence’ and it should also be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Please note that properties which are let to students or migrant workers are (under this legislation) considered as their only or main place of residence. The same applies to properties that are used as domestic refuges.

There are some premises that are legally exempted from the HMO definition (for all purposes other than the ‘Housing Health & Safety Rating System’) and these include:

  • Buildings occupied by only two persons, who do not form a single ‘household’
  • Buildings predominantly ‘owner-occupied’ including those where the owner and his or her family share the house or flat with no more than two other unrelated persons.
  • Buildings occupied by students but managed by the educational establishment in question, under an ‘Approved Code of Practice’
  • Buildings managed by the Local Housing Authority, Registered Social Landlords, the Police, Fire or Health Authority.
  • Buildings occupied by religious communities.
  • Buildings regulated under other specific pieces of legislation such as: Children Act 1989, Care Homes Regulations 2001, Children’s Homes Regulations 2001, etc

Although HMO’s can provide good quality, safe and affordable accommodation, it is widely recognised that such shared and / or converted premises can present a somewhat ‘higher risk’ to occupants, than would say ‘purpose built’ or ‘single family type housing’. Consequently the legal requirements in terms of general or fire safety and the level and standard of amenities, are more stringent.

This is why all HMOs are subject to ‘Management Regulations’ which place additional legal duties and responsibilities on the persons who manage or are ‘in control’ of them.

Certain HMO’s that meet a ‘prescribed description’ must also be licensed by law. 


Last Updated on 30 March 2017

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