What is an HMO?

National HMO Network > What is an HMO?

N.B. Due to the devolved administrations of the United Kingdom, the information on this website relates to England only except where explicitly referred to otherwise. 

Housing policy and legislation is the responsibilty of the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (formerly the DCLG)

The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing of HMOs and a new definition of a House in Multiple Occupation from 2006 in England and Wales.

Licensing is required for some types and sizes of HMO dependent on national (Mandatory) requirements (which changed in 2018) or local licensing schemes implemented by individual local authorities to deal with local issues.

The following are considered to be HMOs (some or all of which maybe licensable HMOs):-

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form two or more households.
  • 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.
  • In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants’ only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

There are other exemptions given by the Housing Act for certain accommodation (mostly by virtue of how they are managed/owned).

Whilst there has previously been no specific definition of an HMO in Planning legislation, changes introduced by Government to the Use Classes Order in England only mean that there is now a legal definition for planning terms which means that an HMO has the same meaning as in Section 254 of the Housing Act 2004.

Two specific sets of Regulations have been introduced in England taking effect from 6th April 2010. They are The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010 and The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010.

Any new property to be occupied as an HMO in England will need planning consent under class C4 (HMOs), but planning consent will not be needed for any HMO reverting back to class C3 (dwelling houses). The Regulations do not apply retrospectively to existing HMOs.