What is a House in Multiple Occupation - HMO?

The Housing Act 2004 defines a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) as a building or part of a building (eg, a flat) which:

  • two or more households occupy, and share one or more basic amenities (toilet, bathroom, cooking facilities)
  • is a converted building not entirely comprising of self-contained flats
  • is converted into self-contained flats, but the conversion does not comply with the Building Regulations 1991, and less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied

A household is defined as persons who are all members of the same family (that are related to one another as a couple, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin. Stepchildren and half blood relatives are also included).

In order to be classified as an HMO, the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence, and used solely or mainly to house tenants.

An HMO could be:

  • a house split into separate bedsits
  • a shared house or flat, where the sharers are not members of the same family
  • a hostel
  • a bed-and-breakfast hotel that is not just for holidays
  • shared accommodation for students

More information regarding the definition of an HMO can be found using the Government’s Private Renting Guidance.

Mandatory licensing

From April 2018, the legislation now requires all HMOs with five or more occupants from two or more separate households, who share a bathroom, toilet or kitchen to be mandatorily licenced by law. This now means that all properties which are less than three storeys high, and meet the above criteria are also required to be licensed by us.

The new legislation also includes the implementation of national minimum sleeping room sizes and waste disposal provision requirements.

Applying for a licence

If your property requires a licence, you can apply by using the link below.

Apply for a HMO licence

You can also renew or make variations to an existing licence.

Renew a HMO licence

Change an existing HMO licence

HMO licensing register

We have a duty to maintain and display a public register of all premises in the district licensed as an HMO. A copy of this register can be found on our open data page and is updated on a quarterly basis. There is also a monthly HMO register, which is updated each month.

Housing standards

Extra requirements must be undertaken in HMOs to protect the health and safety of occupants. HMOs must achieve additional requirements in relation to fire precautions, the provisions of amenities such as bathrooms and kitchens, and steps must be taken to avoid overcrowding. More information can be found on the 'HMO guidance for landlords' page of our website.

Fire safety

The responsible person must ensure any duty imposed under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is complied with in respect to the premises.

The FSO applies to the:

  • common parts of HMOs (but not shared houses)
  • common parts of buildings containing flats and maisonettes
  • common parts of sheltered accommodation

The FSO places a duty on the responsible person (eg landlord or manager) to take fire precautions as far as reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of all relevant persons (eg all persons within the HMO).

A Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) is required to be carried out by the responsible person under the FSO. The risk assessment must pay particular attention to those most vulnerable (eg disabled persons, elderly persons, children etc.).

General fire precautions include, where necessary:

  • measures to reduce the risk of fire occurring
  • measures in relation to escape
  • measures to ensure the means of escape can be safely used at all times
  • measures to reduce the spread of fire
  • actions to be undertaken in the event of a fire
  • means of fire detection and warning

Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, landlords must provide:

  • a smoke alarm on each storey of a property which contains a room being used as living accommodation
  • a carbon monoxide alarm in any room being used as living accommodation in which solid fuel is used

Further information regarding fire safety can be found on the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service website, and in the LACORS guidance.

Contact us

Further information about private rented accommodation can also be found on our website.

If you have an enquiry about an HMO, or need to notify us of any changes applicable to your licence please contact us.

Further information

Information for landlords can be found on our website.

Information for tenants in HMOs can be found on our website.

Information relating to Covid-19 can be found on our website.