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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

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

In general, all rented accommodation occupied by 2 or more 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.

Large Sui Generis HMOs always need planning permission. Small C4 HMOs in certain areas of BCP Council also require planning permission due to confirmed Article 4 Directions.

Any alterations to the HMO such as conversions, provision of additional amenities, 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.

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:

Licence fees

We are obliged to request Licence fees in two stages.

Stage 1

This must be paid when the application is made and covers costs associated with the application process.

Stage 2

This must be paid once you are sent the "notice of intention to grant a licence".

The fee covers ongoing scheme application, operation of the scheme and enforcement costs.

We have calculated the average costs associated with ongoing operation and enforcement of the scheme.

Fee for a new HMO licence

The fee for a new licence is £1,384, split into:

  • Stage 1: £446
  • Stage 2: £938

Fee for a licence renewal

The fee for a renewal is £1,275, split into:

  • Stage 1: £366
  • Stage 2: £909

Extra charges

Where there are more than 6 units, we charge an extra £25 per unit and this will be charged at the stage 2 fee.

Licence discounts

A reduction of 20% is available to all application fees if you are accredited through an approved scheme.

You will be required to provide proof of membership (scheme/membership number) and the discount will be applied at stage 2.

No reduced fees are available for properties we find operating without a licence.


A full refund may be given if:

  • you have made a duplicate application
  • you made an application for an exempted property by mistake and we are satisfied that it does not require a HMO Licence
  • the property is not licensable by us

A refund will not be given if:

  • the application is withdrawn
  • we refuse your application
  • we revoke your licence
  • you are subsequently refused planning permission for your HMO
  • your property ceases to be let as an HMO during the term of the licence

We offer a range of cash incentives to landlords

Landlord incentives

A payment up to the amount of your last HMO licence fee could be available, we offer grants and assistance for landlords.

Contact requesting a callback.

How to apply for a licence

A licence for an HMO lasts for up to 5 years, 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.

Additional information required for new HMO licence applications

We need extra information to be provided for new applications. If a licence is being renewed, you may not need to provide this level of detail unless something has changed.

Your application will not be considered valid until a completed application form, appropriate fee and all up to date safety certificates and documentation listed below (except gas where gas is not provided to the building) have been provided.

Failure to complete the application process to the necessary standard could result in the council prosecution for failure to license.

  • to Scale or to Proportion Floor Plans of Premises
  • up to date copy of Automatic Fire Detection inspection and test certificate(s)
  • up to date copy of Emergency Lighting inspection and test certificate(s)
  • up to date copy of Gas Safety Inspection and test certificate(s)
  • up to date copy of Electrical installation inspection and test certificate(s)
  • a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment

You will be asked to upload certificates as you progress through the form, so please have these ready.

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

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