What is a HMO?

A HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) is commonly summed up as "any dwelling occupied by three or more unrelated persons", but it's more complicated than that.

In this section of the website we will tell you everything about the basic standards of HMOs, amenity standards and fire precautions, the management of HMOs, the various HMO licensing schemes, how to apply for a HMO license, and what we can do for your HMO.

There are several definitions of HMO - all of which can be found in the Housing Act 2004 - but since we specialise in HMO Management, we'd like to share our knowledge with you and will do our best to explain each one in layman's terms on this page.

At this stage, we feel it's important to point out the common misconception that every HMO requires a HMO licence. They don't. A HMO will only require a licence if it falls within a HMO licensing scheme.

Your property will be a HMO if it is one of the following:

Housing Act 2004 section and schedule numbers 

A house or building lived in by people who belong to more than one family* and who share one or more facilities**. 

S254(2) - 'The standard test' 

 A house in bedsits lived in by people who belong to more than one family* and who share one or more facilities**.

S254(4) - 'The converted building test'

An individual flat lived in by people who belong to more than one family* and who share one or more facilities**. 

S254(3) - 'The self-contained flat test' 

A building of self-contained flats that do not meet 1991 Building Regulation standards. S257
Exemptions: Sch 14, 7
If it is occupied by two people. Sch 14, 6(c)
If it is occupied by the owner (and their family, if any) and one or two lodgers. Sch 14, 5
If it is occupied by a religious community. S259 (S)
If the occupiers have their own residences elsewhere**. S254(2)(e)
If no-one in the property is required to pay rent. Sch 14, 2
If the owner or manager is a public body. Sch 14, 4
If the owner or manager is an educational institution. S257(2)(b)
A building of self-contained flats if two thirds or more of the flats are owner-occupied. S254(2)(d)
If the property is part of a guesthouse or hostel (unless a 'HMO Declaration' is made). S255(1)
      

* Family - husband, wife, co-habitee, child, stepchild, foster-child, grandchild, parent, stepparent, foster-parent, grandparent, brother,half-brother, sister, half-sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin.

** Facilities - basic amenities: WC; wash hand basin, shower, bath, cooking facilities.

*** Accommodation used by full-time students while they are studying is taken to be their main residence.

S258



S254(8)


S259(2)(a)


In short, a HMO can be best defined as "three or more unrelated occupiers sharing a house or flat, such as a group of students". A family of five, therefore, would not be classed as a HMO. This is all laid out in Section 254 of the Housing Act 2004.

However, a block of self-contained flats can still be classed as one whole HMO, even if the individual units are only occupied by one or two people. If the building was converted into flats before 1992 or does not meet the 1991 Building Regulations, and over a third of the flats are rented out, then the whole building will be deemed a HMO, as dictated by Section 257 of the Housing Act 2004.

Even if the whole building is not a HMO, it's important to remember that individual flats within it can still be HMOs in their own right. For example, a flat occupied by three unrelated tenants in a building that meets 1991 Building Regulations would be a HMO, and may require a licence if it falls within a licensing scheme. Again, for more information visit our page on the different types of licensing schemes.