Housing

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licensing

This section details Communities and Local Government's policy on mandatory HMO licensing which came into force across England on 6 April 2006.

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new definition of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Part 2 of the Act introduced the mandatory licensing of certain types of higher risk HMOs, and enables local authorities to establish discretionary additional HMO licensing schemes, subject to approval from the Secretary of State, to cover smaller types of HMO where management problems have been identified.

Communities and Local Government policy on HMO Licensing

HMOs are a key source of housing for significant and often vulnerable groups of people in society. Mandatory HMO licensing applies to all privately rented HMOs of three or more storeys and occupied by five or more people who form more than one household (see What is an HMO? for detailed examples). Local authorities will be able to impose conditions on licences such as requirements for licensed properties to be occupied by a specified maximum number of occupants, and that there are adequate amenities in place, whilst landlords will need to be identified as being fit and proper in terms of their suitability to manage the property.

The HMO licensing provisions are not intended to reduce the number of HMOs, or to change their use, but are aimed to increase the quality of existing HMOs in the private rented sector in terms of both physical conditions and management standards.

What is an HMO?

Under the changes in the Housing Act 2004, if a landlord lets a property which is one of the following types it is a House in Multiple Occupation:

  • an entire house or flat which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet (for a definition of household please see the frequently asked questions)
  • a house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self contained  (ie the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households
  • a building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies
  • in order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges

Legislative background

The Statutory Instruments relating to the implementation of HMO Licensing in England under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 were laid before parliament on 22 February 2006, and came into force on 6 April 2006. Enforcement provisions came into force on 6 July 2006 (see News release: Councils given powers to enforce licensing of HMOs and guidance on bringing long-term empty dwellings back into use - 6 July 2006). Further Statutory Instruments relating to the implementation of HMO Licensing came into force on 1 October 2007.

The Statutory Instruments are available on the Office of Public Sector Information website as follows:

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 No.371

Statutory Instrument 2006/371 prescribes descriptions of HMOs that will be subject to licensing by local housing authorities under the provisions of Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004.

The Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at:

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 No.372

Statutory instrument 2006/372 sets out the duties of managers of HMOs and the corresponding duties of occupants. The Regulations also sets out what occupiers must do with a view to assisting managers to undertake their duties.

The Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at:

The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 No.373

Statutory Instrument 2006/373 sets out a range of provisions including when persons are to be regarded as forming a single household and when they are to be regarded as occupying a property as their main or only residence for Part 2 of the Act.

The Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at:

The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007

Statutory Instrument 2007/1903 modifies the previous regulations in respect of the licensing and management of section 257 HMOs (converted blocks of flats).

The Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at:

The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Certain Blocks of Flats) (Modifications to the Housing Act 2004 and Transitional Provisions for section 257 HMOs) (England) Regulations 2007

Statutory Instrument 2007/1904 imposes duties on the managers of section 257 HMOs (in accordance with SI 2006/372) and also makes amendments to how SI 2006/373 is applied in all HMOs.

The Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at:

Key facts and figures

Local Authorities have received over 30,000 applications for HMO licences since implementation of the provisions in April 2006, and local authorities are making steady progress in dealing with the applications they have received and seeking out those private landlords that have not applied.

Information for local authorities

Approval steps for Additional and Selective Licensing Designation in England (Updated January 2008) is a procedural document that sets out the steps that local authorities' need to follow if they wish to seek approval for an area to be designated as either an additional or selective licensing scheme under Parts 2 or 3 of the Housing Act 2004.

Information for landlords and tenants

Guidance about HMOs and living in shared accommodation is available:

Alternatively contact your local authority, who is responsible for issuing HMO licence application packs.

Contact us

Communities and Local Government
Private Housing Management Conditions and Adaptations
1st Floor
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London
SW1 5DU

Telephone. 0303 444 0000
Email. contactus@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Key words: Houses in Multiple Occupation, HMO, Multiple occupancy, HMO Licensing, Mandatory licensing, Additional HMO Licensing, Private landlord, Management order

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