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Houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing

Why do some houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have to be licensed?

Larger HMOs, such as bedsits and shared houses, are often linked to poorer standards than other properties. 

Some people who live in them are vulnerable and disadvantaged, so it is important there are proper regulations.

Licensing makes sure:

  • landlords are fit and proper people or employ managers
  • the standard of management is adequate and vulnerable tenants are protected
  • each HMO is suitable for the number of people on the licence and not overcrowded
  • HMOs with poor standards can be identified and improved

Do all HMOs have to be licensed?

We only license properties that are:

  • three or more storeys high
  • have five or more people in more than one household
  • who share amenities, such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities

How does mandatory licensing work?

Anyone who owns or manages an HMO that must be licensed has to apply to us for a licence. 

Failure to do so is an offence which carries a fine of up to £20,000.

You could also be made to repay rent to tenants or have stricter controls put on regaining possession of your property.

We will grant a licence if:

  • the HMO is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence
  • the proposed licence holder is a fit and proper person
  • the proposed manager, if there is one, is a fit and proper person
  • the proposed management arrangements are satisfactory

In deciding whether someone is a fit and proper person, we must take into account whether they have:

  • previous convictions for violence, sexual offences, drugs or fraud
  • broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues
  • been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
  • previously managed HMOs that have broken laws or codes of practice

The government have produced two guides:

Licensing of houses in multiple occupation in England

HMO licensing guide for tenants

Statutory Instrument 371, 2006 has important definitions about licensing.

Applying for a licence

HMO application form (DOC/46KB/11 pages)

The fee for the licence procedure is £368 for a house with up to five bedrooms.

An extra £25 will be charged for each extra letting bedroom up to a maximum of £600.

A licence will usually last for five years.

We will work with landlords to help fulfil their licence. 

However, the landlord is responsible for sending us:

  • a complete application
  • with the necessary documentation