Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

accordion | HMO

What is an HMO?

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 (‘the Prescribed Description Order 2018’) extends the scope of section 55(2)(a) of the Housing Act 2004. From 1st October 2018 mandatory HMO licensing will apply to buildings of ANY storey height, not just those of three or more storeys. The Order can be found on the Government legislation website.

The Prescribed Description Order 2018 does not change the occupation requirement. For mandatory licensing to apply, the HMO (or Flat in Multiple Occupation) must be occupied by five or more persons, from two or more separate households.

The Housing Act 2004 provides detailed definition of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and sets out standards of management for this type of property, but in simple terms a building or part of a building is classed as an HMO if it is occupied by persons forming 2 or more households . Licensing is mandatory for all HMOs which are occupied by 5 or more persons forming 2 or more households. 

A landlord will not be able to gain possession of their property using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 where an HMO is licensable and no licence has been issued or temporary exemption notice granted.

What regulations apply for the management of HMOs?

A manager of an HMO has a duty to properly manage that house under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 and The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that the manager exercises proper standards of management, maintains the property in a good state of repair, ensures all facilities are kept in proper working order and that all steps are taken to reduce the risk of injury. The full version of the regulations can be viewed in the following link: The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 or below is a summary of these regulations:

  • The manager is to provide his name, address and telephone number to all the occupiers, and display this in a prominent position
  • All means of escape from fire to be kept free from obstruction
  • Fire alarms and fire-fighting equipment to be kept in good working order

  • All reasonable steps are taken to ensure the safety of the occupiers, this includes protecting occupiers from falls, for example, from low windows, off flat roofs and into light-wells as well as other hazards, but will also cover electrical, gas and other safety issues

  • The water supply is maintained, tanks covered and fittings protected from frost, the water supply is not to be unreasonably interrupted

  • The drainage system (including rainwater drainage) is maintained

  • The manager must supply a copy of the latest gas certificate within seven days of us requesting it

  • Ensure the electrical wiring is tested at no less than five yearly intervals, and supply a copy of the test certificate within seven days of us requesting it

  • Ensure that the supply of gas and electricity to each tenant is not unreasonably interrupted

  • Ensure the common parts and fittings of the HMO are in good order, clean, decorative, repaired and free from obstruction, this includes handrails, stair carpets, windows, light fittings and appliances

  • Common parts lighting is to be adequate and available at all times

  • The common outbuildings, yards etc are to be kept in good order

  • The boundary walls, fences etc are kept safe and in good order

  • The doors to each letting are kept in good order

  • Each unit of accommodation, and any furniture provided with it, should be clean at the beginning of the occupation

  • Each unit of accommodation, its windows and ventilators are to be kept in good repair, and working order, the fittings and appliances are to be kept clean and in good working order (there are exceptions where problems arise from poor tenant behaviour)

  • Proper facilities and arrangements are provided for the storage and disposal of refuse.

Where there is a failure to comply with the requirements of these regulations the council will seek to take the appropriate action which could result in prosecution of the manager and/or landlord.

Fire safety in HMOs

The Housing Act 2004 brought in a new system for regulation of fire safety in existing residential premises by way of the Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS), licensing provisions for HMOs and the management regulations for HMOs. Alongside the Housing Act 2004, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) introduced duties in relation to fire safety in the common areas of HMOs (this does not apply to some HMOs which are occupied as ‘shared houses’). However landlords should be able to comply with the fire safety requirements without detailed knowledge of the legislative framework.

The LACoRS Fire Safety Guide is a government produced document containing guidance for landlords and fire safety enforcement officers on how to ensure there is adequate fire safety in certain types of residential accommodation. The person having control of the property, be it the landlord or managing agent, should carry out a fire risk assessment for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions and other measures needed to reduce the risk of fire and the outcome of harm to the residents.

Landlords of larger properties often choose to seek professional help to conduct a fire risk assessment of their property.

Management orders

If an HMO is not suitable for the number of occupants, is not properly managed or the landlord or manager is not a fit and proper person, a licence will not be granted. In these circumstances the council can make an Interim Management Order (IMO) which allows the authority to take over the management of the property, either themselves or through a nominated partner.

The IMO can last for a year until suitable alternative management arrangements have been made. If after one year no alternative arrangements have been made then the council will make a Final Management Order which can last up to five years and is renewable. Management orders aim to protect the occupiers and improve the management of the property.

Licensing of HMOs

Licensing is mandatory for all HMOs which are occupied by 5 or more persons forming 2 or more households. These types of property often have poorer physical and management standards than other privately rented properties. The people who live in HMOs are amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society. As HMOs are the only housing option for many people, the government recognises that it is vital that they are properly regulated.

Licensing is intended to make sure that: 

  • landlords of HMOs are fit and proper people, or employ managers who are
  • each HMO is suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence 

  • the standard of management of the HMO is adequate 

  • high risk HMOs can be identified and targeted for improvement.

Where landlords refuse to meet these criteria the council can intervene and manage the property so that:

  • vulnerable tenants can be protected

  • HMOs are not overcrowded 

  • councils can identify and support landlords, especially with regeneration and tackling antisocial behaviour.

Not all HMO’s need to be licensed however. Only HMO’s which meet ALL of the following criteria must be licensed:

  • have five or more people in more than one household, and

  • share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities.

The Housing Act also allows Local Authorities to require additional or selective properties to be licensed, though at the current time North Kesteven District Council has not adopted such a scheme.

Please note that licensing only applies to HMOs where rents or other considerations are payable. All HMOs are inspected by the District Council to assess whether they meet the required standards.

The Council will work with landlords, giving advice and information on any improvements required. Where necessary we will serve legal notices to secure improvements to HMOs in accordance with the Council’s Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy. If notices are not complied with, we may prosecute and carry out works in default to ensure the health and safety of HMO residents.

Safety inspection

The Council has a proactive inspection programme of HMOs. If conditions in the properties inspected are not up to standard, the landlord or owner is required to improve them.

Water supply, drainage and general services

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 should be clean and covered. The manager shall not unreasonably cause the supply of water, gas or electricity to be interrupted.

Parts and installations in common use

The manager shall also ensure that common areas such as staircases, passageways, corridors and entrances are kept reasonably free from obstruction. All handrails and banisters and any stair coverings should be kept repaired or replaced or be provided where necessary for the safety of the residents.

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, lavatory or washroom which are not subject to any of the foregoing provisions of these Regulations.

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, and sanitation are in and remain in good repair.

Lighting, windows and ventilation

Includes all windows and other means of ventilation. The manager shall ensure that installations for lighting serving any part of the house in common use are readily available to residents, including lighting for staircases and entrances to the house, which are used by residents whether or not they are in common use.

Means of escape from fire 

All means of escape from fire in the house and all apparatus, systems and other fire precaution equipment are to be maintained and kept free from obstruction. It shall be the responsibility of the manager to display in suitable positions in the house signs indicating all means of escape from fire in the house.

Outbuildings in common use

Includes all outbuildings, and outside areas which belong to the house and are in common use. They should be maintained in good clean condition, and any boundary walls, fences and railings should be kept in good repair so as not to constitute a danger to residents.

It is also required that the manager should ensure:

  • That refuse and litter are not allowed to accumulate in the house, except when pending disposal, and he shall provide and maintain suitable refuse and litter bins, except where they are provided by the local authority. They are also responsible for the disposal of any refuse if the local authority fails to do so.

  • That reasonable precautions are taken to ensure the general safety of the residents of the house with regard to the structural conditions of the house and to prevent access to any areas that are unsafe, including window sills that are at or near floor level.

  • That the name, address and telephone number of the managing agent or landlord of the house is displayed in the house.

  • That the local housing authority is provided with particulars requested by written notice with regard to the following: the number of individuals and households accommodated within the house; the numbers of individuals in each household; and the purpose for which each room in the house is used. 

Duties of residents

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

  • allow the manager access, at all reasonable times, to any occupied room, that he may carry out his duties

  • provide the manager on request with any relevant information

  • comply with arrangements made by the agent in respect of fire precautions or litter storage and disposal

  • take care not to hinder in any way the agent in the performance of his duties

  • take reasonable care to avoid damaging anything which the agent is under obligation to keep in good repair.

Apply for an HMO licence

The Housing Act 2004 requires all HMOs with 5 or more occupiers living in 2 or more households and where there is some sharing of basic amenities (washing facilities, toilets, kitchens), regardless of the number of storeys, to be licenced. 

All licences granted are subject to conditions which the licence holder must comply with either immediately or within a specified period of time.  Certain conditions as detailed in Schedule 4 of the Act are mandatory and must be included in every licence granted.  The Council can also impose any other specific property conditions considered necessary for regulating the management, use and occupation of the premises concerned, plus its condition and contents. Please refer to North Kesteven District Council’s HMO Policy Document - Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) for further information regarding this.

In order to complete the HMO application the applicant will need to provide the following information:

  • Contact details for all persons who have an interest in the property including: applicant; proposed licence holder; manager; owners; long term tenants/leaseholders; mortgage company.
  • Information on the criminal record of the applicant; proposed licence holder and manager.
  • Details of any accreditation, qualifications or professional memberships held by the proposed licence holder and/or manager.
  • Details regarding the facilities and amenities of the house.
  • Details relating to the management of the house.

Please note: You must inform all persons who have an interest in the premises that you intend to apply for an HMO licence or provide them with a copy of the fully completed HMO licence application form.

The following documents must accompany the HMO licence application:

  • A floorplan of the property detailing the position and layout, use and size of each room;
  • A current gas safety certificate for all appliances and installations where gas is supplied to the property as provided by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.  This gas certificate must state that all gas appliances and installations are safe to use;
  • BS 5839 test reports relating to the fire detection system (if applicable);
  • BS 5266 test reports relating to the emergency lighting (if applicable);
  • A periodic electrical installation condition report (EICR) dated within 5 years;
  • A portable appliance test (PAT) report dated within 1 year relating to all electrical appliances supplied by the licence holder/manager;
  • A basic disclosure certificate from the Disclosure Barring Service (or equivalent) relating to the proposed licence holder and the proposed manager of the HMO.

For a valid HMO licence application to be made which enables a landlord to fulfil their statutory duty to apply for an HMO licence, North Kesteven District Council must receive all the following:

  • A complete HMO licence application form
  • A signed declaration as given on the final page of the application 
  • All applicable documents required to accompany the application
  • The application fee

The application fee can be found on our fees and charges document. This fee represents the administration cost of the application only. A further fee will be charged for processing the application, completing verification checks, an inspection and issuing the licence. 

There are guidance notes to assist with the completion of the application available on this page, these include help with producing a sketch plan of the HMO.  

You can apply to licence a house in multiple occupation on the website.