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HMO rules and legislation


As if landlord’s weren’t labouring under enough legislative control already, further rules – this time specifically targeted towards Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) – are to come into force from the 1st of October this year.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

The definition of an HMO may be found on the official government website. Currently there are two types of HMO classified according to the size of the property and the number of people living there:

An HMO has at least three tenants living in it, they comprise more than one separate household, with shared facilities such as the bathroom and kitchen;

The second category is the so-called large HMO, which is a building of at least three storeys, has at least five tenants living in it, and shared facilities for those tenants.

Landlords of large HMOs have been required to secure a licence from their local authority to let a large HMO – and an increasing number of regular HMOs have also been drawn into the licensing net.

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018

The order which passed through parliament in February of this year, and which comes into force on the 1st of October, effectively abolishes the distinction between small and large HMOs and imposes a requirement on the landlord of any HMO to secure a licence from the local authority to let the property as an HMO. 

According to the Residential Landlords’ Association in a commentary dated the 16th of March, the extension of these licensing requirements is likely to bring a further 160,000 HMOs within closer and stricter control of local authority standards.

HMOs whish are currently already licensed are expected to be “passported” across to the mandatory scheme when it comes into force at the beginning of October.

Living space

One of the areas in which local authorities are expected to exercise their new licensing power is on minimum living space standards in HMOs.

According to the Residential Landlords’ Association, any bedroom used by an adult or child over the age of 10 must measure a minimum 6.51 square metres. If there are two such individuals sleeping in the bedroom, it must measure no less than 10.22 square metres. 

Any bedroom used by a child under the age of 10 must be no smaller than 4.64 square metres. 

Any licence granted by the local authority will stipulate the maximum number of people who can occupy any room. The total number of occupiable rooms must be no less than the number of people living in the licensed HMO.

Additional rules and regulations

In addition to regulatory control through local authority licensing, landlords of HMOs must also comply with a raft of legislation already in place to safeguard the health and safety of tenants:

  • a certificate of gas safety, for instance, must be obtained every year after inspection by a registered Gas Safe engineer – with copies of the certificate supplied to every tenant of the HMO;
  • the landlord must also ensure that all electrical supply cables and appliances remain in good, safe working order; and 
  • must comply with all local and national fire regulations – including the installation of fire alarms and extinguishers, smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors on each floor (the latter in any room containing a solid fuel heater, such as a coal fire or wood burning stove). 

Running an HMO is therefore likely to become a tougher and tougher undertaking for landlords.