Landlord guides - HMO

What is an HMO? How do you know if you have an HMO, what do you do and have to do if you are in fact letting and HMO?

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'House in Multiple Occupation' (HMO) means a building or part of a building (e.g. a flat):

  • which is occupied by more than one household and in which more than one household shares an amenity (or the building lacks an amenity) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities; or,
  • which is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building which does not entirely comprise self contained flats (whether or not there is also a sharing or lack of amenities); or
  • which comprises entirely of converted self contained flats and the standard of conversion does not meet, as a minimum, which required by the 1991 Building Regulation and more than one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.
  • And is 'occupied' by more than one household:

  • as their only or main residence , or,
  • as a refuge by persons escaping domestic violence, or,
  • during term time by students, or,
  • for some other purpose that is prescribed in regulations.
  • And the households comprise:

  • families (including foster children, children being cared for) and current domestic employees,
  • Single persons
  • Co-habiting couples (whether or not of the opposite sex).

  • A comprehensive definition is given under S254 and schedule 14 Housing Act 2004

    There are specific standards for HMOs as contained to standard dwellings.

    Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) comprises property known as bedsits, lodgings,shared houses and some converted self contained flats. The main feature is that there is sharing of facilities, kitchens and bathrooms/WCs so that occupiers do not have exclusive use of their own facilities.

    The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new definition that includes pre-1991 self contained flat conversions where more than 1/3 rd of the flats are let on short tenancies. These HMOs are called Section 257 HMOs. There are additional management regulations which now apply to these converted blocks of flats.

    Legislation came into force on 6 th April 2006 with the effect that certain larger, higher risk HMOs require an HMO licence to operate.

    The criteria for mandatory HMO licensing are: -

  • It is an HMO with 3 or more storeys; and
  • Occupied by 5 or more people, in more than one household; and
  • all or some of these households either share a basic amenity or lack one, such as a bathroom or kitchen.

  • If your property meets these criteria then you must contact your local authority for an information pack, as operating a licensable HMO without a licence is a serious offence which is punishable by a fine of up to £20,000!

    There are Regulations prescribing standards for deciding the suitability of HMOs for licensing purposes, which generally require ‘adequate’ means of heating, washing facilities, facilities for cooking food and fire safety measures to be provided. One of the purposes of this article is to specify what standards councils will consider adequate, not only for licensable but also for non licensable HMOs (i.e. those that do not meet the above criteria).

    The following specific standards apply to all HMOs (including licensable and non-licensable HMOs):

  • 1. Fire safety;
  • 2. Amenity standards - kitchen facilities;
  • 3. Amenity standards - washing/bathroom and WC facilities
  • 4. Crowding and space – within bedsitting rooms and shared houses;
  • 5. Management (set out in regulations)

  • 1. Fire safety measures

    Government research into fire statistics has shown that the risk of dying in a fire increases by up to 8 times for occupiers of HMOs and there is an even greater risk if that HMO is 3 storeys or more.

    It is this evidence that has informed increased regulation - particularly fire safety requirements - in respect of these properties. Landlords who own HMOs should carry out their own fire risk assessments and seek individual advice on fire safety measures from the Council HMO team for their properties. If necessary a detailed schedule of work will be issued by the Council following, if appropriate,an individual risk assessment which may be a joint assessment with the Fire Safety Officer.

    Each HMO must be inspected by the local authority's HMO team to determine the exact fire safety measures required.


    2. Amenity standards (kitchens)

    Lettings within houses in multiple occupation should include either individual kitchen facilities or access to the shared facilities in the ratios set out below. Alternative facility provision, for example individual cooking facilities, may be acceptable in some situations (e.g. bedsits). Shared kitchens and bathrooms should be located within a reasonable distance from bedrooms,normally one floor distant.

    Shared kitchens- Where shared kitchens are provided for use by the occupiers, a set of kitchen facilities should be provided on a ratio of one set per five occupiers or part thereof. A kitchen set should include the following minimum requirements:

  • 1½ bowl sink/drainer with mixer tap and adequate supply of hot and cold water;
  • A cooker, minimum 4 rings plus oven and grill, a microwave oven may also be included;
  • Food preparation area minimum 1500mm length of work surface;
  • A minimum of 6 electrical socket outlets at working height;
  • Single base/wall unit for equipment and dry goods per occupant, which should be lockable;
  • Suitably sized refrigerator with a freezer compartment.

  • Layout is very important to ensure the kitchen can be used safely without hazards from scalding, hot surfaces and fire. Cookers should not be sited close to doorways and should have work surface fitted on either side.

    A practical alternative for food storage is to provide either a base unit with worktop over within each individual letting, or a refrigerator within each letting, so tenants can store food individually. Tiled splashbacks should be provided for areas adjacent to working areas of the kitchen. Additional socket outlets should be provided for fridges, freezers and washing machines. Washable, impervious floor coverings to be fitted in all kitchens.

    Individual kitchens in bedsits - it is recognised that more compact cooking and food preparation facilities may be more appropriate so a suitable single kitchen provision would be - minimum of 2 rings and mini oven with sink unit,fridge and work surface and 3 electric socket outlets for kitchen equipment.

    The layout and siting must be hygienic and safe to use – and the cooking facilities to be fitted/secured rather than free standing on a surface.


    3. Amenity standards (bathrooms and WCs and wash hand basins)


    Lettings within houses in multiple occupation should include either:

  • exclusive use of individual bath/shower room and WC facilities such as ensuite facilities; or
  • where amenities are shared, the following ratios of amenities to occupiers are considered suitable for the purposes of providing an adequate number of bathrooms, toilets and wash-hand basins (suitable for personal washing) for the number of persons sharing those facilities:
    • Up to 4 persons sharing: One bathroom, containing a bath or shower, washbasin and WC, with all hot and cold water supplies and drainage.
    • 5 persons sharing: One bathroom and, in addition, a separate WC and washbasin must be provided in the house in a separately accessible compartment.The bathroom might contain just a bath/shower and wash basin.
    • 6 - 8 persons sharing: two bathrooms, containing a bath or shower, washbasin and WC, with all hot and cold water supplies and drainage.
    • 9 - 10 persons sharing: Two complete bath/shower rooms, at least one of which must have a WC fitted. In addition, a separate WC with basin in a separate compartment must be provided.
    • 11 - 15 persons sharing: Three complete bath/shower rooms, at least two of which must have a WC fitted. In addition, a separate WC with basin in a separate compartment must be provided.
    • 16 - 20 persons sharing: Four complete bath/shower rooms, at least three ofwhich must have a WC fitted. In addition, a separate WC with basin in aseparate compartment must be provided.

    General rule: for five or more sharing occupiers there should be fitted bath/shower rooms in the ratio 1:5 (baths: occupiers). There should be WCs fitted, in the ratio 1:5 (WCs: occupiers) but at least one WC with wash basin must be sited in a separately accessible compartment.

    All bathrooms and WCs to be supplied with hot and cold water as applicable and waste drainage. Tiled splash backs to be provided for areas adjacent to baths, to areas above wash basins and to the walls of shower enclosures. Washable, impervious floor coverings to be fitted in all bath/shower rooms and WC compartments. External WCs do not count towards the minimum requirement above.

    Wash hand basins – Where 5 or more persons occupy an HMO, a wash hand basin with hot and cold water and a tiled slash back should generally be provided, where reasonably practicable, within each letting (unless a sink is already provided) of sufficient size to allow personal washing. The most appropriate installations would be in rooms with adequate space for siting such a facility; access to existing waste drainage; sufficient falls within the drainage system to ensure waste water is properly disposed of.


    4. Crowding and space within bedsits and shared houses


    The minimum standards for overcrowding apply to HMOs but in addition there are considerations such as the floor space taken up by kitchens in rooms and whether or not there are communal lounges or dining rooms within the house,in which case the bedroom size can be reduced because the occupants have access to a living space in the house. If no communal space is provided, an allowance must be made in the bed sitting room for seating/TV etc.

    Overcrowding in HMOs is dealt with using enforceable parts of the Housing Act 2004, so keeping to the space limits is vital, to avoid notices. For licensed HMOs a mandatory maximum number will be included in the licence.

    One person unit with communal space available in the house:

    Floor area

    One person unit no kitchen 6.5m² or 70ft²

    One person unit with kitchen 9.5m² or 105ft²

    One person unit - no communal space in the house

    One person unit no kitchen 8m² or 85ft²

    One person unit with kitchen 11m² or 120ft²



    Two person unit with communal space available in the house

    Floor area

    Two person unit no kitchen 10.5m² or 110ft²

    Two person unit with kitchen 13.5 m² or 145ft²



    Two person unit - no communal space in the house

    Two person unit no kitchen 13m² or 140ft²

    Two person unit with kitchen 16m² or 175ft²

    Communal space means a furnished lounge area and/or dining room sufficient for residents to relax and enjoy using.


    5. Management of HMOs


    All HMOs must comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. The Regulations state that it shall be the responsibility of the Manager of the HMO to ensure the following:


    Safety measures


    All means of escape from fire are to be kept free from obstruction and maintained in good order and repair. Any fire fighting equipment and fire alarms must be maintained in good working order. All notices indicating the means of escape must be displayed so that they are clearly visible to the occupiers.

    The manager must take all measures to protect the occupiers from injury,having regard to the design, structural conditions and numbers of occupants,especially in relation to roofs and balconies, and any windows that have sills at or near to floor level.


    Water supply and drainage


    All means of water supply and drainage in the house are to be maintained, repaired, kept clean and be protected against frost damage. Tanks and cisterns must be clean and covered. The manager shall not unreasonably cause the supply of water to be interrupted.


    Gas and electricity


    The manager shall not unreasonably cause the supply of gas or electricity to be interrupted. The manager must supply a copy of the latest Gas Appliance Test Certificate within 7 days of a request from the local authority. The manager must ensure that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested by a suitably qualified person at intervals not exceeding 5 years, (from 15th February 2006) obtain a test certificate and supply a copy to the local authority within 7 days of receiving a request from the local authority.


    Common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances


    The manager shall also ensure that all common areas such as staircases, passageways, corridors and entrances are kept reasonably free from obstruction, maintained in good and clean decorative repair and in safe working condition. All handrails and banisters and any stair coverings must be kept repaired or replaced or be provided where necessary for the safety of the residents. All fixtures, fittings and appliances used in common are to be maintained in good and safe repair and in clean working order, except those that an occupier is entitled to remove,or which are otherwise outside the control of the manager.

    Included are installations that serve any part of the house in common use:

    • installations for the supply of gas and electricity, for lighting and for space heating or heating water;
    • sanitary conveniences, baths, sinks, washbasins and installations for cooking or storing food;
    • receptacles or other installations provided in connection with the delivery to the house of postal packets;
    • other installations (if any) in a kitchen, bathroom, W.C or washroom that are not subject to any other provisions of the Regulations.

    The manager shall ensure that any part of the HMO not in use is kept reasonably clean and free from refuse and litter.


    (v) Living accommodation


    The internal structure of any part of the house occupied by a resident as his living accommodation including the installations for supply of water, gas, electricity, ventilation, and sanitation must be maintained in a good state of repair. The manager must ensure that each unit of living accommodation and any furniture supplied with it are in a clean condition at the start of any occupation by a tenant.


    Lighting, windows and ventilation


    All windows and other means of ventilation in common areas must be kept in good repair. The common parts must be fitted with adequate light fittings that are available for use at all times by every occupier whether or not they are in common use.


    Outbuildings in common use


    All outbuildings, yards and forecourts that belong to the house and are in common use must be maintained in repair,clean condition and good order, and any boundary walls, fences and railings must be kept and maintained in good and safe repair so as not to constitute a danger to residents. Any garden to be kept in a safe and tidy condition.

    Waste disposal facilities - The manager must ensure sufficient bins or other suitable receptacles are provided for the requirements of each household for the storage of refuse and litter pending disposal, and make further arrangements for the disposal of refuse and litter as may be necessary having regard to any service for disposal provided by the local authority.


    Information to occupiers


    The name, address and telephone contact number of the manager must be made available to each occupier and the details clearly displayed in a prominent position in the house.


    Duties of occupiers


    It is the duty of all residents of an HMO to ensure that the manager can effectively carry out his duties. All residents must:

    • Allow the manager or agent access, at all reasonable times, to any occupied room, so that he may carry out his duties;
    • Provide the manager or agent on request with any relevant information needed to carry out his duties;
    • Comply with arrangements made by the manager or agent in respect of litter storage and disposal;
    • Conduct himself in a way that will not hinder or frustrate the manager or agent in the performance of his duties;
    • Take reasonable care to avoid damaging anything that the manager or agent is under obligation to supply, maintain or repair;
    • Comply with the reasonable instructions of the manager or agent in respect to any means of escape from fire, prevention of fire and use of fire equipment;
    • Treat the premises in a suitable tenant-like manner and conduct all activities as a reasonable tenant would do.

    The manager of the HMO is the person who is responsible for the management as set out in the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England)Regulations 2006. This may be the owner/landlord or a manager appointed by them or a residential letting agent.

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