Houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing

Last Updated: 5 April 2024

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a dwelling which is occupied by three or more people, forming two or more households, as their only or main residence and where some of those households share one or more basic amenities or lack a basic amenity.

HMOs include:

  • a dwelling which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non self contained accommodation
  • a converted dwelling which contains a mix of self contained and non self contained accommodation, for example a flat within a house which lacks a facility such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
  • a building which is converted entirely into self contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and less than two thirds of the self contained flats are owner occupied

A household is defined as “all members of the same family”. This includes:

  • couples married to each other or living together
  • relatives living together
  • half relatives, who are to be treated as full relatives
  • domestic staff, if they occupy living accommodation in the same building or part of a building as their employer

Properties occupied by students, hotel staff, migrant workers and seasonal workers are regarded as their only or main residence.

A more detailed definition of an HMO is contained within sections 254 to 257 of the Housing Act 2004

Which HMOs need licences

Certain types of larger HMOs need licensing. It is an offence to operate without a licence where one is required and this can result in unlimited fines in a magistrate's court. As an alternative to prosecution, local authorities can now issue civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence.

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

Under the Housing Act 2004 there are three types of licensing:

Mandatory licensing

This licence covers HMOs that:

  • have five or more people in more than one household
  • share amenities such as bathroom, toilets and cooking facilities or lack a basic amenity

From 1st October 2018, the government has introduced minimum room sizes. A single room must be a minimum of 6.51 square meters and a double room a minimum of 10.22 square meters. Any floor area where the ceiling height is less than 1.5 meters, cannot be counted.

Additional licensing

A discretionary power to licence smaller types of HMOs in which local authorities would have to consult with local residents, landlords and tenants to introduce such a scheme. We do not currently have an additional licensing scheme.

Selective landlord licensing

In some areas of the country, properties that are not subject to HMO licensing could be covered under a selective landlord licensing scheme. This could be applied to certain areas where there is low demand for housing or issues with anti-social behaviour. We have not implemented selective landlord licensing in South Lakeland.

How does mandatory licensing work

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

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

Statutory Instrument 221, 2018 has important definitions about licensing.

Applying for a licence

HMO application form (PDF 891KB / 30 pages)

The fee for the licence procedure is £525 for a house with up to five bedrooms.

An extra £33 will be charged for each additional room. There is no maximum fee.

A licence will usually last for five years in which the property will be subject to inspections.

To renew an existing licence the fee is £525.

We will work with landlords to help fulfil their licence obligations. However, the landlord is responsible for sending us a complete application with the necessary documentation.