Houses of Multiple Occupation – The Law

Landlords may need a licence to let a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) – a rented property with shared facilities. They must also maintain good housing conditions, otherwise tenants can complain to their local council.

What is an HMO?

A property is an HMO if it is let as a main or only home to at least three tenants, who form more than one household and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

A household consists of either a single person or members of the same family who live together, including:

  • people who are married or living together
  • people in same-sex relationships
  • relatives who are living together – including step-children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins and foster children
  • certain live-in domestic staff such as au pairs, nannies, nurses or other carers, gardeners, chauffeurs, servants (if certain conditions are met)

If you are a tenant in shared accommodation, you may live in an HMO. These properties can be an entire house, flat or converted building or any of the following:

  • bedsits
  • shared houses
  • households with a lodger
  • purpose-built HMOs
  • hostels
  • guesthouses – if rented out of season
  • bed and breakfasts providing accommodation for homeless people
  • some types of self-contained flats converted from houses

Does an HMO need a licence?

An HMO must have a licence if they are:

  • of three or more storeys
  • occupied by five or more persons who form more than one household

A local council can also include other types of HMOs for licensing. You must apply for an HMO licence if one is required, and meet the terms and conditions of the licence.