Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

The Housing Act 2004 defines a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) as:

  • an entire house or flat which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet; or
  • 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; or 
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self contained (ie 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; 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 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.

If the property is occupied by 5 or more tenants forming 2 or more households covering 3 or more storeys of the property (this includes 2 storey properties with an attic conversion, for example), and households share a facility such as a kitchen or bathroom, a licence will be required.

The definition of a household

Members of the same family living together including:

  • couples married to each other or living together as husband and wife (or couples in a same-sex relationship)
  • relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children (and step-children), grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins
  • half-relatives will be treated as full relatives.
  • a foster child living with his foster parent is treated as living in the same household as his foster parent.
  • any domestic staff (e.g. au-pair or live-in nanny)are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person for whom they are working.

Three friends sharing together are considered three households. If a couple are sharing with a third unrelated person that would consist of two households. If a family rents a property that is a single household. If that family had an au-pair to look after their children that person would be included in their household.

Properties where only two single, unrelated people live are not HMOs.

Apply for a HMO Licence

The Housing Act 2004 introduced mandatory licensing of certain types of HMOs. Licensing is intended to monitor management and property standards to ensure that landlords and HMO managers are carrying out their legal responsibilities.

If the building is three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more tenants forming at least 2 households, and the households have to share a bathroom, kitchen or toilet, it will require a licence.

The licence cannot be transferred to another person or property, so if the owner sells the property, the new owner must apply for a licence if they continue to operate the building as an HMO.

If you own and manage a HMO that needs a licence you can complete your HMO application online and find guidance at GOV.UK. As well as completing the application form and making the payment, you will also need to submit additional documents which can be found in the HMO Application Checklist (PDF, 194KB) . Without these, your application will not be complete.  Any delays in submitting a complete application could result in the HMO operating without a licence and be subject to enforcement action.   

HMO Licence fees

Your application must be accompanied by the correct HMO licence fee, which until 31 March 2018 is £560. From 1 April 2018 the correct HMO licence fee is £575.

Management standards

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 apply to all HMOs and cover a number of items. In essence they require that the properties are kept in a good state of repair and that all facilities are in good working order at all times. For more information, please read a full copy of the Management Regulations.

Housing standards

If you own or manage a HMO that does not require a licence, more information is available on the HMO Standards page about the facilities and fire safety standards that are required.

For information about fire safety requirements in HMOs, please read the LACORS Fire Safety Guide available on our Fire Safety page.

Planning requirements for HMOs

If you are planning to change your property into a HMO, or make alterations to an existing HMO, you should check whether you need planning permission for any changes you are proposing with the Planning service.

Council Tax requirements for HMOs

Please note that the Council Tax definition for HMOs is different to the Housing Act 2004 definition and may affect your liability for Council Tax payments. Please contact the Council Tax service for more information.


Contact us

The Housing Standards & Adaptations Team deals with all types of HMOs. Please contact us if you need further information or guidance, or to request a property inspection.

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