Houses of Multiple Occupation: What Is House of Multiple Occupation (“HMO”)?

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new regime of licensing of residential properties that were being let to more than one person with shared facilities, typically large buildings converted into bedsits or flats. Under the new regime these properties were classed as Houses in Multiple Occupation (“HMOs”). 

The regulations set down under the Housing Act 2004 (“the Regulations”) came into force on 6 April 2006. Under the Regulations all landlords who owned and/or managed buildings which were occupied by more than one household and which has shared facilities, has to have a HMO licence with the Local Authority. In order to gain a HMO licence the property needs to meet certain minimum standards of accommodation.

HMO Tests

If a Building passes the following tests it will be considered an HMO:

The Building test - A residential building will pass this test where there is:

  • More than one household in occupation all of whom share an amenity (or the building lacks an amenity). Examples of shared amenities are a bathroom, cooking facilities, or toilet.   This category may include a shared house or  flats or houses which comprise of separate bedsits or rooms. Hostels or bed-and-breakfast establishments may fall into this category where the rooms are being rented as the tenant’s s main residence. A building will pass this test even if some of the residents within the building have their own exclusive amenities and others do not. This category will not apply purely to converted buildings but can be any residential building such as a family home or a purpose-built flat.
  • A converted building that does not entirely consist of self-contained flats and applies whether or not there is a sharing of amenities. The building will meet the Building Test even if all the flats in the building are self-contained.
  • The building consists entirely of self-contained flats but the standard of the conversion of the building does not meet the minimum standard that is required by the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

The Residence Test - A residential building will pass this test where there is:

  • More than one household occupying the property as their main residence. This may include periods of temporary residence for example by asylum seekers or migrant and seasonal workers or students in higher or further education. In instances where not all the occupiers are occupying as their sole main residence but significant number of occupiers are, the Local Authority can serve an HMO declaration on the landlord effectively designating the building as an HMO, an example of this may be in respect of bed-and-breakfast establishment which provides both tourist accommodation and housing for some of its residents on a more permanent basis.
  • A “household” is considered to be either a single person or members of the same family living together. This may include people who are living together, married or may include specific relatives living together for example parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters and so on. Some live-in employees may also count as being in the same household.

The Consideration Test - A residential building pass this test where there is:

Consideration payable for the accommodation. This may be in terms of monetary consideration such as rent, or in return for work such as living accommodation as part of employment (there are exceptions to this in certain types of domestic employment)

Exemptions from the HMO Definitions

Certain buildings are exempt from being designated as an HMO even if they pass the HMO Tests these are:

  • Buildings Controlled All Managed by the Resident Social Landlords and Housing Associations
  • Buildings Controlled or Managed by the Police, Fire Brigade or Health Service Body
  • Buildings Regulated by Other Enactments
  • Set University/College Accommodation by Students
  • Buildings Occupied by Religious Communities

Any Building Occupied by 2 Persons Who Form 2 Households


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