Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO in England.

In general, all rented accommodation occupied by more than 2 households is a HMO. A “shared house” is no longer deemed a single household. 

Definition of an HMO

An HMO is a building, or part of a building (for example, a flat) which is let to 3 or more persons forming 2 or more households where one of the following applies:

  • more than one household shares an amenity (or the building lacks an amenity) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • where it is occupied by more than one household. Which is a converted building and does not entirely comprise self-contained flats. Whether or not there is also a sharing or lack of amenities
  • where it comprises entirely of converted self-contained flats and the standard of the conversion does not meet, at a minimum, that required by the 1991 Building Regulations. Also more than one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

To be categorised as an HMO a property must also be “occupied” by more than one household:

  • as their only or main residence
  • as a refuge by persons escaping domestic violence
  • by students undertaking a full-time course or further or higher education
  • for some other purpose that is prescribed in regulations.

In addition, the households are defined as comprising:

  • families including single persons and co-habiting couples (whether or not of the opposite sex)
  • any other relationship that may be prescribed by regulation. Such as domestic staff or fostering or carer arrangements.

Planning legislation and building regulations

In addition to the Housing Act 2004, the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, may also apply to Houses in Multiple Occupation.

All new HMOs require planning permission but any changes to the HMO., i.e. conversions, provision of additional amenities etc., may be subject to both Planning Permission and Building Regulations.

Licensable houses in multiple occupation

From 1st October 2018, the Government extended the scope of mandatory licensable houses in multiple occupation. 

It will apply where certain HMOs are occupied by five persons or more in two or more households, regardless of the number of storeys. 

This includes any HMO which is a building or a converted flat where such householders lack or share basic amenities such as a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities.

It also applies to purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as an HMO.

Tenants are only classed as a ‘household’ if they are:  

  • co-habiting couples
  • blood- related, or foster families
  • carers and domestic staff.

Student halls of residence managed by the university and buildings owned by public bodies are not classed as HMOs.   

If you own or manage HMOs in the Bournemouth Christchurch or Poole area you’ll need to submit a Property Information Form for each property.

All licensed HMOs can be viewed on the Public Register

Basic standards

Even if you don’t need a licence, your building must meet the following standards:

Cost of licence

The cost of a new licence is £695 for a property up to 10 units. There is an additional charge of £15 per unit above 10.

If applications are returned incomplete or additional works are undertaken to investigate unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation, additional costs will be charged at an hourly rate to recover all reasonable expenses incurred by the authority.

The renewal of an existing licence is charged at the rate of £595, assuming there are no major changes to the property or its occupancy. If a DBS check is requested, this will incur an additional fee of approximately £60.

However, the authority does not carry out this check for all applications. Please do not add this cost to the renewal fee.

If we feel it appropriate to carry out a check we will inform you, in writing, with the application pack. The licence renewal will also be for a five-year term.

How to apply for a licence

A licence for an HMO lasts for a five-year period, after which it must be renewed by the licence holder.

Temporary licensing exemptions may be applicable if the property is not subject to licensing for the next 3 months.

If a property changes hands within the term of the licence

The new owner must apply for a licence in their own right. Licences are not transferable as it is the person responsible who holds the licence, not the property itself.

Further information can be found in the Licensing of HMOs – Guide for Landlords