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Houses in multiple occupation

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) are generally houses split into bedsits, shared houses such as student houses or divided into some self-contained flats. A HMO could be:

  • A house or flat which is occupied by 3 or more people who form 2 or more households, and who lack or share basic amenities, or;
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation, which is occupied by 3 or more people who form 2 or more households, and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities or;
  • A converted house which contains a mix of self-contained and non self-contained accommodation (for example a flat within the house does not contain a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more people who form 2 or more households or;
  • A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies.

To be an HMO, the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence.

Mandatory HMO Licensing

Some HMOs will also require a licence from the council if the property meets the following criteria:

  • occupied by five or more people, forming two or more households; AND
  • tenants share facilities such as kitchen or bathrooms

Purpose built flats will also come within the definition, where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both of the flats are occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households. This will apply regardless of whether the block is above or below commercial premises. This will bring certain flats above shops on high streets within mandatory licensing as well as small blocks of flats which are not connected to commercial premises.

It is the individual HMO that is required to be licensed and not the building within which the HMO is situated. This means that where a building has two flats and each is occupied by 5 persons living in 2 or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

If your property requires a licence, you must complete a licence application and submit the necessary certificates and payment. Once the application has been considered, a draft (or 'minded to') letter and licence will be granted. Assuming there are no representations, the final licence will then be issued approximately 3 weeks following the draft licence. An appointment will be made to inspect the property within the 3 year period and works may be required to bring the property up to standard.

Licences will be given if:

  • the house is or can be made suitable for multiple occupation
  • the applicant is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • the proposed manager has control of the house and is the best person to be the manager
  • the management arrangements are satisfactory

Licensed properties

We keep a register of houses in multiple occupation.

Licence fees

The total cost for a three year approved licence is £620. 

HMO Licences are split into two parts:

  • to make an application there is a fee of £262
  • if your application is successful, you will receive an invoice from us for the licence issue fee of £358 

The application fee is not refundable.

Apply for a HMO licence

You can apply online through GOV.UK.

Apply online for a HMO licence

You will need the following documents to accompany your application;

  • Layout plan showing each storey of the building, room locations, room dimensions and locations of amenities.
  • ID showing permanent proposed licence holders address
  • Fit and proper person assessment
  • Most recent Electrical Inspection Condition Report
  • Most recent PAT certificate if applicable
  • Current fire alarm test schedule
  • Current emergency lighting test certificate (if applicable)
  • Service contract for alarm and safety certificate (if applicable)
  • Current landlords gas safety certificate (if applicable)
  • Fire safety risk assessment (optional)
  • Building Regulations completion certificates (optional)

What happens next

You will be notified in writing if there is anything missing from your application or any additional information is needed. Once we have a valid application you will be contacted and we aim to decide your application within 16 weeks of receipt of a complete/valid application.

You cannot assume that the licence has been automatically granted if the 16 week period has passed. It is in the public interest that we process your application before it can be granted. If we are unable to come to a decision within 16 weeks, we will contact you with further advice.  

The licence for your HMO is valid for a maximum of three years and you will need to apply for another licence before the current one expires. The council will not send a reminder it is your responsibility to apply for a new licence.

Fines and Penalties

It is an offence:

  • to not have a licence for a property that requires one; or
  • to allow occupation of an HMO over the number of people permitted; or
  • to fail to comply with any conditions of the licence

You could get an unlimited fine for renting out an unlicensed HMO or a fine of up to £5000 for breaching a condition of the licence upon conviction (as at October 2018). Local authorities are also able to issue landlords with civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence as an alternative to prosecution.

Rent Repayment Orders

A tenant living in a property that should have been licensed but was not, can apply fo the First Tier Property Tribunal to claim back any rent they have paid during the unlicensed period (up to a limit of 12 months). Councils can also reclaim any housing benefit that has been paid during the time the property was without a licence.

Restrictions on termination of tenancies

Tenants living in a property that should have been licensed but was not, cannot be evicted by serving a section 21 Housing Act 1988 notice until such time as the HMO is licensed or a management order is in place.

Facilities in a HMO

A HMO must have adequate facilities for everyone living there. They must have:

  • adequate facilities for storage, preparation and cooking of food, including sinks with hot and cold water supplies
  • sufficient suitably located toilets
  • adequate number of suitably located baths or showers and hand-wash basins, each with satisfactory supplies of hot and cold water

By rule of thumb, one complete kitchen and bathroom is required for every 5 occupants that share the accommodation.

HMO Management Regulations

All properties whether they are non-licensable as defined above or subject to mandatory HMO licensing are covered by sets of management regulations.

Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006. These regulations, produced by the government, require anyone who manages an HMO to observe proper standards of repair, cleanliness and maintenance throughout the property.  They cover the water supply and drainage; parts of the house and installations in common use; living accommodation; windows and other ventilation; escape from fire and apparatus and systems for fire precautions, as well the general safety of residents.

Non-compliance with the management regulations can result in fines of up to £5,000 upon conviction (as at October 2018). Local authorities are also able to issue landlords with civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence as an alternative to prosecution.

Certain blocks of flats;

A converted house which contains a mix of self-contained and non-self-contained accommodation. For example a flat within the house does not contain a kitchen, bathroom and toilet. And occupied by 3 or more people who form 2 or more households.

A building converted into self-contained flats. Where the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations. More than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies.

These types of properties are covered by the following regulations;

The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Certain Blocks of Flats) (Modifications to the Housing Act 2004 and Transitional Provisions for section 257 HMOs) (England) Regulations 2007 on legislation.gov.uk.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System

Housing standards in all HMO’s are also assessed using the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) under the Housing Act 2004. The HHSRS is a risk assessment approach which considers whether defects identified within a property affect the health and safety of the occupants of that property. It is applicable to all owners and landlords, including social landlords.

Fire Safety

Landlords of all rented housing must make sure the risk from fire is minimised. There is a significant risk of fire in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). We therefore require owners to provide adequate means of escape from fire and adequate fire precautions and we have the power to enforce this.

All occupants of an HMO should be able to leave the premises safely in the event of a fire.  Measures must be put in place to prevent the spread of fire and smoke to living areas or escape routes before the occupants have been able to exit the building.  There must also be adequate warning systems in which help to ensure occupants receive sufficient warning of a fire to make their escape before escape routes become impassable.

The LACORS ‘Housing – Fire Safety’ guide provides guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing and can be used to assess what is reasonably required in each property.  Relatively simple systems will be satisfactory for smaller low risk premises but larger houses and HMOs will require a more sophisticated system. All systems are to comply with BS 5839: Parts 1 & 6.

We would typically expect to find the following precautions:

  • heat detectors and fire blankets in the kitchen
  • interlinked smoke detectors within the hallway, stairs and landing
  • interlinked smoke detector in the living room
  • direct access from the bedrooms on to the hallway/landing (means of escape) or suitable secondary means of escape
  • thumb turn lock on main exit door to allow exit at all times
  • fire doors are recommended for kitchen doors and may be required to all doors in larger 3+ storey HMOs.  Well fitted and constructed solid doors may be acceptable in smaller 2 storey HMOs.

LACORS national fire safety guidance for housing (PDF 1MB / 82 pages)

‘Inner’ rooms;

Bedrooms and living rooms should ideally exit directly onto a hallway which leads directly out of a property. However any bedrooms accessed via living rooms and/or kitchens are known as ‘inner rooms’ and in these cases there must be a satisfactory alternative means of escape from these rooms.

Smoke detection;

Smoke/heat detectors must be interlinked (radio linked is acceptable) and should be hard wired into the property.  For smaller low risk HMOs it may be acceptable to use 10 year battery-sealed smoke detectors as long as they are interlinked.

Fire fighting equipment;

There are no longer requirements to have fire-fighting equipment in HMOs. The advice is to evacuate the building to a place of safety and call the fire and rescue service.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 introduced duties in relation to the common areas of HMOs and blocks of flats. 

The duty is placed on the “responsible person” who is required to:

  • carry out a fire risk assessment
  • take action in regard to reducing the risk of fire

The extent of fire safety measures required will depend on the design, layout and use of each individual property.

Electrical Safety

Landlords are responsible for the safety of the fixed electrical installation in their rental properties and any portable electrical appliances they provide.  

The fixed electrical installation;

As of 1 July 2020, the rules in England changed to introduce new standards of electrical safety as well as legal requirements on the service of documents to relevant people. 

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 places a continuous duty on landlords in England to maintain their property to the electrical safety standards and to have evidence of this. This means your property must meet the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations and you must have a report, such as an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) that shows this from a qualified person.

EICR are required for all performed on all existing tenancies before 1 April 2021

The fixed electrical installation must be inspected and tested at intervals of no more than five years. The EICR must should cover 100% of the installation.

The EIRC and any associated works must be carried out by a competent person qualified to check installations to the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations.

If you have a lodger or you are letting out the property on a long lease (7 years or more) you are not required to have an EICR performed.

If a breach, or a potential breach, of your duty has been identified you need to have a qualified person either perform the work or investigate further within 28 days. This time limit can be shortened if the report recommends it so you should ensure you are complying with the time frame in the report itself.

Once this has been done you need to ensure you receive a written report from the qualified person as quickly as possible. This report needs to state that the electrical safety standards are now being met or that further remedial work is required.

It is at this stage, within 28 days of the work or investigation being carried, that you must provide the written confirmation as well as a copy of the report to all of the tenants and the local authority. DO NOT send the information to the local authority before this time. It should be sent to ERS@cotswold.gov.uk 

Where the follow up investigation recommends further work being done, you must repeat the steps above until the property meets the electrical safety standards.

The local authority is responsible for enforcement and we have a number of powers to act on this.

Firstly, we can issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 per breach of these regulations.

Secondly, where we have identified non-urgent work we must serve the landlord a notice detailing the work required and giving him 28 days to perform the work. The landlord may make representations to this within 21 days of the notice being served. If you do then the local authority must respond to these representations within 7 days. Until we respond the requirement to perform the work is suspended.

Finally, the local authority, are satisfied the landlord is in breach and we have the tenant's permission to do so, we may perform emergency remedial work on the property and bill you for any costs incurred.

Further information can be found here https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guidance/advice-for-you/landlords/ 

Portable appliance testing;

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the process of checking electrical appliances for safety through a series of visual inspections and electronic tests. Where a landlord provides an electrical appliance as part of a tenancy, the law expects the appliance will be maintained in a safe condition that will not cause harm to the tenant. 

Further information can be found here https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/find-an-electrician/pat-testing-explained

Planning Legislation and Building Regulations

In addition to the Housing Act 2004, the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 may also apply to houses in multiple occupation. 

As a general rule, HMOs with seven or more occupants require planning permission, but any changes to the HMO, such as conversions and provision of additional amenities, may be subject to planning permission, building regulations and conservation requirements.

As each HMO is individual, it is recommended you contact the appropriate department to ensure your property complies with the necessary legislation.