Houses in Multiple Occupation - guidance for landlords
Under the Housing Act 2004 a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is defined as a building or part of a building (e.g. a flat) which is privately let to three or more people from more than one household and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. This can include shared houses and flats above shops. In order to be an HMO the property must be the tenants' main home or principal address. A building converted into self-contained flats before 1992 can also be an HMO, even if facilities are not shared.
HMO landlords must comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, which stipulate the roles and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, for example:
- Making sure the landlord's contact details are made available to the occupiers
- Ensuring that the HMO is safe for the occupiers
- Keeping fire escape routes clear and maintaining fire alarms
- Having current gas safety and electrical condition certificates
- Maintaining services including water, drainage, electricity and gas (if present)
- Keeping the common parts of the property in good repair including fixtures, furnishings, appliances, and the exterior of the property
- Providing waste disposal facilities
- Tenants must avoid damage, allow the landlord access when required, and follow instructions regarding fire precautions and waste disposal
Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 you or your managing agent must carry out a fire risk assessment of the common parts and take action to minimise the risk of fire.
The council's Environmental Health Team is responsible for enforcing standards in HMOs. We will usually try to resolve problems informally in the first instance, but breach of the Management Regulations is a criminal offence and could result in prosecution or a civil penalty. HMOs are also subject to the same housing standards as other rental properties, see our separate Information Note on these.
HMOs requiring a licence
An HMO must be licensed by the council if it is:
- A building let to five or more people from two or more separate households who share amenities,
- A flat occupied as an HMO by five or more people, which is not a purpose-built flat in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats
- Aconverted building not consisting entirely of self-contained flats, let to five or more people from two or more separate households (even if amenities are not shared)
These definitions can include shared houses, flats above shops, and more than two tenants living with a resident landlord.
Licensable HMOs require a high standard of fire safety, and must meet Essex-wide amenity and room size standards. Our Houses in Multiple Occupation page provides details of requirements, the application process, fees, and an application form. Licensed HMOs are listed on a public register, and by law this information will include the licence holder's name and address. A licence normally lasts for five years.
Contact Environmental Health if you are not sure whether your property needs a licence. Failure to license an HMO which should be licensed is a criminal offence liable to a civil penalty or unlimited fine.