DASH Services


"Where we live defines who we are.
Poor housing is linked to poor health and reduces people’s life chances."

Linda Cobb Project Manager

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Landlord Responsibilities

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Landlord Responsibilities

What’s the big deal about Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and why is the Council concerned about them?

Fact - an occupant of an HMO is up to 10 times more likely to suffer death or serious injury in fire than in an average family home. The risk of death or serious injury is significantly increased when the HMO is three or more stories high.

So what exactly is an HMO?  A HMO is a house, bungalow, maisonette or flat occupied by more than two people forming more than one household, and shares, or lacks, amenities such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities.

In contrast to a dwelling occupied as a family home, an HMO must have amongst other things:

    • protected escape route including fire doors,

    • fire separation measures, and

    • automatic fire alarm and detection system.

Whilst fire is the most common cause of death and serious injury, sanitation, the preparation and storage of food and electrical safety are also causes for serious concern.

As a landlord it is your legal responsibility to ensure your properties meet the required standards.

To help ensure the quality of HMOs various permissions and approvals are normally required from the Housing, Building Control, and Planning sections of the Council.

There is also a requirement for owners / landlords to have a license for some categories of HMO introduced by the Housing Act 2004. 

You must have a license if:

    • the HMO or any part of it comprises of three storeys or more, including habitable cellars/attics or where part is used for commercial or business uses and;

    • it is occupied by 5 or more persons forming more than one household.

Landlords of licensable properties operating without a license are subject to an offence that is liable to a fine of up to £20,000.

If you are the landlord of a property that fits the above description of a HMO or Licensable HMO, please contact your Council to discuss what consents may be required to allow the dwelling to be lawfully occupied. Decent, good quality HMOs that meet an acceptable standard as set out in legislation and are well managed, provide much needed affordable housing for people.

First published: September 2011

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