Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

More legal protection in shared housing

Your landlord usually has more legal responsibilities if the home you rent is a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

The rules are there to reduce the risk of fire and to make sure that people living in shared houses or flats have adequate facilities.

More responsibilities of HMO landlords

Landlords of HMOs must make sure that:

  • there are enough rubbish bins

  • the property is not overcrowded

  • electrics are checked every 5 years

  • annual gas safety checks are carried out

  • communal areas and shared facilities are clean and in good repair

  • proper fire safety measures are in place, including working smoke alarms

  • there are enough cooking and bathroom facilities for the number living there

Get advice about rights and responsibilities in an HMO.

Is your home a house in multiple occupation?

Your home is probably an HMO if 3 or more unrelated people live there and:

  • there are at least 2 separate households

  • living areas, such as a kitchen or bathroom, are shared

For example, 3 single people with their own rooms, or 2 couples each sharing a room.

An HMO could be a:

  • shared house or flat, where the sharers are not members of the same family

  • bed-and-breakfast hotel that is not just for holidays

  • house split into separate bedsits

  • hostel

Shared accommodation for students can also be a HMO, especially if it's privately owned.

Many halls of residence and other types of student accommodation owned by educational establishments are not classed as HMOs.

Ask your local council to check if your home is registered as an HMO.

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:

  • electrical wiring

  • water and gas pipes

  • basins, sinks, baths and toilets

  • fixed heaters (radiators) and water heaters

  • the structure and exterior of the house – including the walls, window frames and gutters

Check your rental agreement to find out who's responsible for what.

Find out more about responsibility for repairs in private rented homes.

HMO licence for a shared home

Your landlord must get a licence from the council if both are true:

  • there are 5 or more unrelated people living in a shared house

  • there are 2 or more separate households

Some councils also require other HMOs to be licensed. Some councils require all private landlords to get a licence.

Check with your local council to find out if your landlord needs a licence.

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

HMOs don't need to be licensed if they are managed or owned by a:

  • council

  • co-operative

  • health service

  • housing association

  • police or fire authority

Minimum bedroom size for licensed HMOs

If your landlord applies for or renews an HMO licence on or after 1 October 2018, bedroom sizes must be at least:

  • 6.51 square metres for a person aged 10 or over

  • 10.22 square metres for 2 people aged 10 or over

  • 4.64 square metres for a child under 10 years old

Some councils may set higher standards for bedroom sizes.

If a room is used as bedroom and does not meet the size requirement, the council can give your landlord up to 18 months to comply with the rules.

The landlord could make structural alterations to make the room bigger or take steps to end your tenancy during this time.

Right to rent

The landlord must carry out a right to rent immigration check on any adult living in the property whose agreement began on or after 1 February 2016.

Landlord penalties for not having an HMO licence


Your landlord can be fined and ordered to repay up to 12 months' rent if you live in a HMO that should be licensed but is not.

Rent repayment order

Apply for a rent repayment order within a year of the HMO being unlicensed using this form.

Any housing benefit or universal credit you have used to help you pay your rent will be reclaimed by the council.

Contact the council or use the guidance that comes with the form if you need help with your application.

Section 21 notice not valid

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, your landlord won't be able to evict you using a section 21 notice.

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:

The assessment looks for specific hazards in the home. It allows councils to take action against landlords whose properties are not safe or fit to live in.

Last updated: 7 February 2022

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