The definition of an HMO as set out in Housing Act 2004 is complex and you should seek advice if you are unsure as to whether your property meets one of the ‘Tests’. It is your responsibility to know the status of your property.

Larger HMOs, with a greater risk to the occupiers’ health and safety, must be licensed. Some other HMOs may also need to be licensed. You should familiarise yourself with the Housing Act 2004 or seek appropriate advice to make sure that you meet your obligation to hold any necessary licence.

It is a criminal offence to be managing or in control of a House in Multiple Occupation that should be licensed but is not.

The definition of a HMO varies for different departments. You can find out more information about when property is classed as a HMO for council tax on our landlord information page. 

Mandatory HMO licensing scheme came into force on 1 October 2018

New regulations have been published that expanded the mandatory HMO licensing scheme across England since 1 October 2018. The licensing scheme was previously restricted to properties that comprised three or more storeys. 

A property is a HMO if:

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share or lack 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 or lack kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.

  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not entirely self-contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form two or more households.

  • A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats and the conversion does not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are not owner occupied.*

  • The property must be used as the tenants’ only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

A property becomes subject to mandatory licensing if it meets one of the above and is occupied by 5 or more people from 2 or more households.

*Mandatory licensing applies to HMOs in England but does not apply to converted blocks of flats, to which section 257 of the Act applies. These are buildings that have been converted into and consist of self-contained flats where the building work undertaken in connection with the conversion did not comply with the appropriate building standards and still does not comply with them, and less than two-thirds of the self-contained flats are owner-occupied.

Full details of the licensing reforms guidance:

  Download houses in multiple occupation and residential property licensing reform Opens in a new window

There are also some mandatory regulation changes around room sizes and waste collection.

The Licence holder shall comply with the Council’s scheme which relates to the storage and disposal of household waste.

These minimum room sizes do not alter our own acceptable minimum room sizes if they are higher. Our minimum acceptable room sizes are contained in the Amenity Standards below

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Standards
These standards have been designed to assist landlords and developers to improve and maintain HMOs to a reasonable standard.

Statutory Exemptions

The government have decided to exclude purpose built flats within a block comprising three or more self-contained flats. The Housing Act 2004 and associated regulations list certain exemptions from HMO licensing, a full list of can be read here

Failure to apply for a licence may result in the landlord and letting agent being prosecuted and given a hefty fine. Alternatively, the council can issue a civil penalty notice of up to £30,000 for not having the correct licence.