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House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Rules: A Landlord’s Guide

Published by Susan Basnet
Published Date: February 8, 2024

Following the growth of House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties in the UK, the rules and regulations governing HMOs have become more stringent. HMO landlords must ensure they stay ahead of these evolving rules and adhere to them.

This article delves into deciphering large HMO classifications, outlining the diverse responsibilities placed on HMO landlords, and detailing eligibility criteria.

What is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

A property is said to be a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if both of these apply:

  • At least three tenants live on the property, forming more than one household
  • The tenants share facilities such as toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities

A household includes people who are married or living together or any family member (including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren and their partners). 

What is a Large HMO?

You are deemed to be running a large HMO if these apply to your HMO:

  • The property accommodates at least five tenants, forming more than one household
  • The tenants use shared facilities such as the toilet, bathroom, or kitchen

Landlords renting out large HMOs must follow the laws and regulations about HMOs, as the regulations covering large HMOs are strict.

What are The Responsibilities of HMO Landlords?

Specific government regulations bind an HMO, and the landlord must ensure tenants adhere to house rules. These regulations encompass safety, sanitation, facilities, and fire risk mitigation. In particular, the landlord is obligated to verify that the property includes:

  • Gas safety: As a landlord, you must ensure gas equipment supplied to the tenants is safely installed and maintained. In addition, you should give the tenants a copy of the gas safety check record before they move in.
  • Electrical safety: You must ensure the electrical system and the appliances supplied are safe.
  • Fire Safety:  You must provide a smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel-burning appliance.
  • Repairs: Additionally, you are also responsible for repairs to the property's structure and exterior, as well as repairs on other common areas.

What are The Eligibility Criteria for HMO Landlords?

Eligibility Criteria for HMO Landlords

In this section, we delve into the essential preconditions that landlords must meet to operate an HMO, shedding light on the criteria related to property suitability and ongoing safety measures:

  • The house must be suitable for the number of occupants (depending on the size and facilities).
  • The landlord (you) or the managing agent should have no criminal record or breach of landlord laws or code of practice.
  • You must send the council an updated gas safety certificate every year.
  • You must install and keep smoke alarms.
  • You must supply safety certificates for all electrical appliances when requested.

What are The Licensing Requirements for HMO Properties

Depending on the classification of your HMO property, securing a license may be a necessary step in compliance. Local councils hold the authority to mandate licensing requirements for your property. You'll need to apply for a license if your property falls under one of the following licensing schemes:

Mandatory Licensing

While not every HMO requires a license, it is a legal requirement for landlords renting a large HMO. A large HMO landlord can apply for a license from the local council. A landlord who does not obtain the license on time will break the law, and councils can issue a fine of up to £30,000 for the breach.

It should be noted that a separate license is necessary for each property that requires licensing.

Additional Licensing

In England and Wales, each council can decide to implement an additional licensing scheme to bring more HMOs within the scope of licensing. This scheme relates to HMOs occupied by three or four people.

Selective Licensing

As mentioned before, each council can decide to implement a selective licensing scheme to extend licensing to all privately rented properties. This scheme includes houses and flats occupied by families, couples, single people and two people sharing.

What Rules and Regulations Govern HMO Landlords?

HMO

Operating an HMO involves more than just getting a license. HMO landlords must follow various rules, from ensuring the properties meet minimum room size standards to handling garbage properly. In this section, we will break down these rules:

Minimum Room Size

You must ensure that the HMO rooms used for sleeping accommodation in your property meet the national minimum size standards:

  • A room for a single individual over ten years must be at least 6.51 m².
  • A room for two individuals aged over ten years must be at least 10.22 m².
  • A room for a single child under the age of 10 years must be at least 4.64 m².

Breaching these conditions is also a criminal offence and may result in a financial penalty or prosecution.

Refuse Storage and Disposal

You must comply with any scheme issued by the local authority for storing and disposing of domestic refuse pending collection. This condition is intended to prevent rubbish accumulation and pest infestation in HMOs.

Non-compliance with this condition is also a criminal offence and may result in a financial penalty or prosecution.

Other Conditions

You must also comply with other mandatory and discretionary conditions imposed by the local authority about the HMO's management, use, occupation, condition, and contents. The local authority may also impose additional conditions to address specific issues or problems in the HMO or the area.

Conclusion

Staying informed of rules and regulations around Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMOs) is more than a regulations checklist. It is a commitment to creating safe, comfortable spaces. From understanding landlord responsibilities to legal obligations, each aspect shapes responsible property management.

Whether you are a seasoned property manager or just stepping into property ownership, understanding the obligations and legal frameworks surrounding HMOs is crucial.

Need expert advice on HMOs and property taxation?

Contact us today for efficient and hassle-free assistance.

Susan Basnet
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