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What is a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?

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.

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 are living in accommodation provided by the person they are working for

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

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 more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies

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

Certain types of larger HMOs need licensing. These are dwellings with five or more people, in two or more households and with three or more storeys.

It is an offence to operate without a licence where one is required and this can result in a fine of up to £20,000. Further information is available on HMO licensing.

All HMOs, whether or not they need a licence, are subject to management regulations. These obligations along with additional guidelines are available for the Management of an HMO.

Building regulations

Building regulations will be required where a property is changed from a single dwelling to a multi occupancy house. 

The only exception is if six people or less share all common areas of the house, such as bathrooms, kitchens and reception rooms and are living as a single unit. An example of this might be shared student accommodation.

Building regulations will also be required for a variety of renovation works, including installing new plumbing and electrical works, thermal insulation and structural alterations.

Meeting building regulation standards does not imply the property meets HMO standards or is free from HHSRS hazards. 

If you are submitting an application for building regulations include “HMO” in the title so we can identify the development and advise you about any specific requirements.

For further information please contact building control:

Telephone: 01539 793 331

Planning permission

Planning permission is required to create a new HMO which will be occupied by more than six people.

Planning permission may be required to create a HMO with six people or less. For further information please contact our development management team directly:

Telephone: 01539 733 333 

If your property is within the Lake District National Park, you will need to contact its planning department:

Telephone: 01539 724 555

If your property is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, you will need to contact:

Telephone: 01969 652 349

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Energy Performance Certificates should be made available to prospective tenants by landlords in the social and private rented sectors.

Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP)

Landlords who rent out their properties on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007, must put their tenants' deposits in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.