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An HMO is a building, or part of a building (for example, a flat) which is let to at least 3 tenants, forming more than 2 households where:

  • more than 1 household shares a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • it has been converted to include but is not entirely made up of self-contained flats,  occupied by more than 1 household - whether or not there is also a sharing or lack of amenities
  • it is entirely made up of converted self-contained flats and the standard of the conversion does not meet the minimum requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations

To be categorised as an HMO, a property must also be "occupied" by more than 1 household:

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

The households must also be defined as:

  • families including single persons and co-habiting couples
  • any other relationship that may be prescribed by regulation, such as domestic staff or fostering or carer arrangements

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

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 HMOs.

Large "Sui Generis" HMOs (housing 7 or more people) always need planning permission. Small C4 HMOs in certain areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch or Poole 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.

Basic HMO standards

Even if you do not need a licence, your building must meet the following standards:

Current HMOs in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

All licensed HMOs can be viewed on the public register.

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