Your landlord probably has extra legal responsibilities if the house or flat you share with other tenants is a house in multiple occupation (HMO).
Extra legal protection in shared housing
Your landlord has extra legal responsibilities if the home you rent is a house in multiple occupation or HMO.
The extra rules are there to reduce the risk of fire and to make sure that people living in shared houses or flats have decent facilities.
Extra responsibilities of HMO landlords
Landlords of HMOs must make sure that:
- proper fire safety measures are in place – for licensed HMOs smoke detectors must be installed
- annual gas safety checks are carried out
- electrics are checked every 5 years
- the property is not overcrowded
- there are adequate cooking and washing facilities
- communal areas and shared facilities are clean and in good repair
- there are enough rubbish bins/bags
Is your home a house in multiple occupation?
Your home is probably an HMO if:
- three or more unrelated people live there as at least 2 separate households – for example, 3 single people with their own rooms, or 2 couples each sharing a room
- the people living there share basic amenities – for example, a kitchen and/or bathroom
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 – although many halls of residence and other types of student accommodation owned by educational establishments are not classed as HMOs
Responsibility for repairs in HMOs
Your landlord is responsible for any repairs to communal areas of your home.
They are also responsible for repairs to:
- the structure and exterior of the house – including the walls, window frames and gutters
- water and gas pipes
- electrical wiring
- basins, sinks, baths and toilets
- fixed heaters (radiators) and water heaters
As a tenant, you are usually responsible for minor repairs to the living areas and for fixing any items you own. Check your rental agreement to find out who's responsible for what.
HMO licence for a shared home
Your landlord must get a licence from the council if the HMO:
- is at least 3 storeys high
- has 5 or more unrelated people live in it
- has 2 or more separate households living there
Some councils also require other HMOs to be licensed.
Check with your local council to find out what the requirements are in your area and if your landlord has registered your home as an HMO.
HMOs don't need to be licensed if they are managed or owned by a housing association or co-operative, a council, a health service or a police or fire authority.
Licences usually last for 5 years but some councils grant them for shorter periods. When deciding whether to issue or renew a licence, the council checks that:
- the property meets an acceptable standard. For example, it looks at whether the property is large enough for the occupants and if it is well managed
- the landlord is a 'fit and proper' person
Landlord penalties for not having an HMO licence
If you live in a HMO that should be licensed but isn't, your landlord can be fined and ordered to repay up to 12 months' rent (or housing benefit to the council).
Many people living in HMOs have an assured shorthold tenancy. If you're an assured shorthold tenant and the HMO should be licensed but isn't, any section 21 notice (two months' notice) your landlord gives you is not valid.
How to complain about an HMO landlord
Contact the environmental health department of your local council if you live in an HMO and you don't think your landlord is following these rules.
The council can do an assessment using the Housing Health Safety Rating System. This assessment looks for specific hazards in the home. It allows councils to take action against landlords whose properties are dangerous.
The council can prosecute landlords of HMOs, or any manager they have employed, if they break the law. In extreme cases, the council can take over the management of the property.
Read Shelter's factsheet Joint tenants for more information on sharing your home with other people.