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Houses in multiple occupation

The definition of a HMO is contained in sections 254 and 257 of the Housing Act 2004. A HMO can be a whole building or a part of a building (for example a block of flats might not be a HMO, but one of the flats within the block could be a HMO)

  • A building or part of a building that contains two persons sharing is not a HMO
  • Also, a building occupied by the owner’s household plus up to two lodgers is excluded

If the property is not excluded as above, then a building or a part of a building is a house in multiple occupation:

  • If the building or part of building consists of living accommodation, and
  • The accommodation is occupied by more than a single household (See later for definition of household), and
  • It is their main residence, and
  • Rents are payable or other consideration is provided, and
  • The occupiers share one or more (or the accommodation lacks one or more) toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities

A household is where all the persons are members of the same family. There are other prescribed descriptions for example an au-pair. A person is a member of the same family if:

  • Those persons are married to each other or live together as husband and wife (or in an equivalent relationship in the case of persons of the same sex); or
  • One of them is a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin of the other; or
  • One of the person’s is a relative of one of the couples.

A self contained flat will be a HMO if the self contained flat matches the criteria above (i.e. occupied by more than a single household, rents are payable etc.)

The definition of a self contained flat in the Housing Act 2004 is:

  • A separate set of premises, (whether or not on the same floor)
  • Which forms part of a building
  • Either the whole or material part of which lies above or below some other part of the building; and
  • In which a toilet, personal washing facilities and cooking facilities are available for the exclusive use of its occupants

Under section 257 Housing Act 2004, certain converted blocks of flats may be a HMO. A purpose built block of flats is not an HMO because the building must have been “converted” into self contained flats. A converted block of flats is a HMO if it meets the following criteria:

  • Building work undertaken in connection with the conversion did not comply with the Building Regulations 1991 (or regulations that applied after if the conversion was after 1st June 1992) and still does not comply with them; and
  • Less than two-thirds of the self contained flats are owner-occupied.

Below is a table to show some examples of what does and does not constitute a HMO

Two bedroom house or flat, two unrelated Tenants
Two bedroom flat, One couple living as though married & One unrelated sharer
Three bedroom house, Three unrelated tenants
Three bedroom house, brother, sister and cousin sharing
Building converted into three flats, conversion does not meet Building Regulations 1991, One tenant in each flat

HMO managers duties

All Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are subject to regulations to make sure they are properly managed. The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 and the Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007 place the following duties upon the manager of a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence.
This section highlights some of the key duties in the regulations:

  • Duty to provide information to occupiers
  • The name, address and telephone number of the manager must be provided to each household in the HMO
  • The same information must be clearly displayed in a prominent position in the HMO (in the common parts of the HMO)
  • Means of escape from fire must be kept free of obstruction and kept in good order and repair
  • Fire fighting equipment, emergency lighting and alarms must be kept in good working order
  • All reasonable steps must be taken to protect occupiers from injury with regard to the design of the HMO, its structural condition and the total number of occupiers
  • In particular, any unsafe roof or balcony must be made safe or all reasonable measures taken to prevent access to them
  • Safeguards must be provided to protect occupiers with windows with sills at or near floor level
  • In HMOs of more than four occupants, notices indicating the location of means of escape from fire must be displayed so they are clearly visible to all occupiers.
  • These must be maintained in proper working order - namely in good repair and clean condition
  • Specifically, storage tanks must be effectively covered to prevent contamination of water, and pipes should be protected from frost damage
  • These should not be unreasonably interrupted by the landlord or manager
  • All fixed electrical installations must be inspected and tested by a qualified engineer at least once every 5 years and a results certificate obtained
  • The latest gas safety record and electrical safety test results must be provided to the council within 7 days of the council making a written request for such
  • All common parts must be kept clean, safe, in good decorative repair and working order and free from obstruction
  • In particular, handrails and banisters must be provided and kept in good order, any stair coverings securely fixed, windows and other means of ventilation kept in good repair and adequate light fittings available at all times for every occupier to use
  • Gardens, yards, outbuildings, boundary walls/fences, gates, etc., which are part of the HMO should be safe, maintained in good repair, kept clean and present no danger to occupiers/visitors.
  • Any part of the HMO which is not in use (including areas giving access to it) should be kept reasonably clean and free from refuse and litter
  • The internal structure, fixtures and fittings, including windows and other means of ventilation, of each room should be kept clean, in good repair and in working order
  • Each room and all supplied furniture should be in a clean condition at the beginning of the tenant’s occupation
  • There is also a duty to provide waste disposal facilities
  • No litter should be allowed to accumulate, except for that stored in bins provided in adequate numbers for the requirements of the occupiers
  • Arrangements need to be made for regular disposal of litter and refuse having regard to the council’s collection service

The regulations also place a number of duties upon the occupiers (e.g. tenants) of an HMO. These duties include:

  • Not to obstruct the manager in the performance of their duties
  • Allow the manager access to the accommodation at all reasonable times for the purpose of carrying out their duties
  • Provide information to the manager which would be reasonably expected to enable them to carry out their duties
  • Act reasonably to avoid causing damage to anything the manager is under a duty to supply, maintain or repair
  • Store and dispose of litter/refuse as directed
  • Comply with reasonable instructions of the manager as regards to any fire escape, fire prevention measures and fire equipment

The regulations require that the specified duties are met and maintained

  • If an occupier breaches their duties under the regulations it is likely to put their tenancy at risk, and you may be able to take legal action against the tenant
  • They can also be prosecuted by the local authority with a maximum fine of £5000
  • Tenants are liable to being prosecuted and fined in the same way as landlords if they fail to comply with the regulations

Licensing houses in multiple occupation

The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing of some categories of HMOs. It is compulsory to licence larger, higher-risk dwellings. We are also able to additionally licence other types of HMOs if we can establish that other avenues for tackling problems in these properties have been exhausted.

Licensing is intended to make sure that:

  • A landlord of an HMO is a fit and proper person (or employs a manager who is)
  • Each HMO is suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence
  • The standard of management of the HMO is adequate
  • This is to ensure vulnerable tenants are protected and that the dwelling is not overcrowded
  • High-risk HMOs can be identified through licensing and targeted for improvement by a local authority under the HHSRS
  • HMOs subject to mandatory licensing

Mandatory licensing applies to HMOs for which:

  • The HMO or any part of it comprises three storeys or more
  • It is occupied by five or more persons
  • It is occupied by persons living in two or more households

From 1 October 2018 the current mandatory licensing regime for houses in multiple occupation will be extended to include: 

  • A property occupied by 5  or more people, making up 2 or more households, who share a kitchen and/or bathroom amenities regardless of the number of storeys
  • A building or a converted flat where 5 or more people, making up 2 or more households who share amenities such as kitchen and/or bathroom facilities 
  • Purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied by 5 or more people, making up 2 or more households who share amenities such as kitchen and/or bathroom facilities

In addition, minimum room sizes for letting rooms in houses of multiple occupation will come into effect.  

Further information regarding this can be found at:

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) Order 2018 (SI 2018 No. 221) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/221/pdfs/uksi_20180221_en.pdf

The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) 2018 (SI 2018 No. 616) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/616/contents/made

If you are the landlord of a licensable HMO you must apply to the local authority for a licence. More information about mandatory HMO licensing can be found on the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website

For clarification of whether or not your property is licensable please contact us.

If you refuse to apply for a licence or cannot meet the criteria yourself yet do not use an agent to manage the property, the local authority must intervene and manage the property.


Anyone who owns or manages a licensable HMO has to apply to the local authority for a licence. Wiltshire Council’s HMO licence application forms can be downloaded from:

HMO licence application form  can be found in the download section.

We must issue a licence if we are satisfied that the:

  • 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, or that the proposed manager, if there is one, is fit and proper
  • The proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • The proposed management arrangements are satisfactory, the person involved in the management of the HMO is competent and the financial structures for the management are suitable.

There is a charge for licensing. For details of these see licensing fees for HMOs


In determining whether the licence applicant is a ‘fit and proper person’ we will take into account a number of factors. They have to consider:

  • Any unspent convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud
  • Whether the person has breached any housing or landlord and tenant law
  • Whether they have been found guilty of unlawful discrimination


HMO Licensing fees

The fee structure set out below is believed to balance the Council’s need to recoup its reasonable administration costs whilst minimising the burden to landlords. The level of fees is similar to those being considered by other district councils.

Number of lettingsFee
Up to 5£375
6 to 10£475
11 to 15£560
16 to 20£660
More than 20£750

Change in management/licence holder
Change in numbers£200 + any difference in banding from increased numbers (above)

Circumstances unchanged£200
New licence holder and/or changes to property£350


  • Where the Council exercises its discretion to issue a licence for less than 5 years, the fee charged will be reduced pro-rata
  • Licence application fees are not subject to Value Added Tax
  • The above fees represent an average cost of less than £50 per letting for a 5 year License
  • We will review the scale of charges annually

Fire safety in HMO houses

This new piece of legislation came into force on 1 October 2006 and repeals or amends over 70 pieces of legislation, including the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.

The most notable developments since this legislation was introduced are:

  • Fire certificates will no longer have legal status
  • The focus of the Fire Safety Order is on risk assessment. This builds on the approach to fire safety established by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997
  • Local fire authorities are responsible for enforcing the Order, for most types of premises. They will have new powers to enforce the legislation and issue fines, or even close down businesses, if it is deemed not to apply

The Fire Safety Order places responsibility for complying with the requirements on the ‘responsible person’ who could be, for example:

  • The employer for those parts of the premises that staff and visitors may go to
  • The occupier, such as the self-employed or voluntary organisations if they have control over the premises (or part of)
  • The managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety facilities such as sprinklers or fire detection systems
  • Any other person who may have some control over part of the premises
  • In most instances it will be obvious who the responsible person is, however, in some circumstances responsibility may lie with a number of people
  • Carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises
  • Consider those who may be especially at risk
  • Remove or reduce identified risks as far as reasonably practicable
  • Provide appropriate fire precautions to deal with any remaining identified risks and ensure they are maintained
  • Take appropriate precautions associated with the use and/or storage of flammable or explosive materials
  • Develop an emergency plan to deal with any emergency
  • Provide information to residents on the results of the fire risk assessment and emergency procedures
  • Keep appropriate records
  • Review the risk assessment, precautions and plans when necessary.

The Fire Safety Order applies to virtually all premises with the exception of private homes including individual flats in a block or house

  • Examples of the types of premises to which the order applies include:
  • The shared areas of properties common to several households
  • The Fire Safety Order requires the responsible person in every workplace to make ‘a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which staff and visitors are exposed. If five or more people are employed, or the premises are licensed or subject to an alterations notice, then the assessment must be recorded
  • A fire risk assessment is required for each premises to help minimise the possibility that the premises, or activities carried out within it, might create harm to people working there, visiting, or in adjacent premises
  • It should also aim to help prevent and reduce harm to the environment

In the vast majority of cases, conducting a risk assessment will be a relatively straightforward and simple task that may be carried out by the responsible person, or a person nominated by him, such as a consultant.

  • To identify the fire hazards
  • To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable
  • To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start
  • Hazard: anything that has potential to cause harm
  • Risk: the chance of that harm occurring

Risk assessment steps

  • Smokers’ materials
  • Naked flames, e.g. candles and night lights
  • Electric, gas or oil-fired heaters
  • Boilers
  • Cookers, toasters and other kitchen equipment (especially when shared)
  • Faulty or misused electrical equipment
  • Electric blankets, computers, TVs, washing machines and dryers
  • Lighting equipment (fixed and movable), for example halogen lamps and table lamps
  • The electrical installation itself note 3
  • The gas installation arson attack; 
  • In larger and mixed use properties, any plant rooms, lift motor rooms and so on

Sources of fuel

  • Furniture, furnishings, textiles, bedding, clothing and curtains
  • Laundry
  • Accumulations of unwanted mail, waste paper, cardboard, newspapers and magazines (including that awaiting recycling collection)
  • Waste storage and refuse containers
  • Flammable liquid-based products such as paint, varnish, thinners, adhesives, white spirit, methylated spirit and cooking oils
  • Liquefied gas (LPG), paraffin, heating oils and petrol
  • Paper products, packaging materials, stationery, advertising material and books
  • Decorations for seasonal and religious occasions
  • Plastics and rubber such as videotapes, polyurethane foam-filled furniture and polystyrene-based display materials
  • Wall, floor and ceiling coverings and surface finishes
  • People asleep
  • People who are unfamiliar with the premises (guests and visitors)
  • People with disabilities (including mobility impairment and hearing and vision impairment)
  • People who may have some other reason for not being able to leave the premises quickly (such as parents with young children)
  • People who have sensory impairment due to alcohol, drugs or medication
  • Unaccompanied children and young people
  • Anyone working in enclosed, isolated parts of the building
  • Anyone who has difficulty understanding English
  • Replace portable heating appliances with fixed convector heaters or a central heating system
  • Ensure electrical sockets are adequate in number and sited appropriately to avoid overloading and trailing leads
  • Ensure electrical, mechanical and gas equipment is installed, used, maintained and protected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Ensure all furniture complies with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire)(Safety) Regulations 1988
  • Ensure combustible items such as furniture, laundry, decorations are stored properly and are kept away from potential ignition sources such as cookers, heaters and boilers
  • Ensure refuse is properly stored and disposed of
  • In crowded accommodation, provide adequate shelving and cupboard space so that everyday items are not in proximity to cookers, heaters and so on

Protect against remaining risk

  • Passive protection e.g. fire doors, compartmentation etc
  • Active protection e.g. smoke detection
  • Management and maintenance

Guidance on this part of the fire safety risk assessment is available from the publication ‘Housing-Fire Safety’ available from LACORS

  • Record the findings, disseminate them to relevant parties such as tenants, plan for future
  • Prepare an emergency plan.
  • Carry out periodic review of the assessment

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Last updated: 15 May 2019 | Last reviewed: 15 May 2019