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Local authority powers to deal with hazards in HMOs

This content applies to England

Addressing hazards in HMOs.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are subject both to licensing under Part 2 Housing Act 2004  and to local authority powers in respect of hazards in Part 1 of the Act.

For more information about hazards in the home see the section on Safety in the home.

Assessing hazards

A local authority is required to satisfy itself that a licensable HMO is free of category 1 (serious) hazards and whether action is required to address any category 2 (other) hazards under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 (the Housing Health and Safety Rating System).[1] The authority has a duty to do this as soon as reasonably practicable and not later than five years after receipt of a licence application.

A local authority does not have to carry out an inspection of a HMO as part of the licensing procedure, but in carrying out its licensing function the local authority may become aware of properties where inspection is necessary. This requirement applies to licence renewals, therefore there must be some form of regular check of all licensed HMOs every five years.

Hazards in properties not subject to licensing are assessed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. For more information, see the section on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.


Where enforcement is necessary, the Act makes clear that enforcement under Part 1 should be carried out separately from the licensing procedure (under Part 2). Where the application for a licence is in order, the local authority should not delay the grant of a licence pending its consideration of its duties under Part 1. It is possible to attach conditions to the licence requiring works to be carried out, but the general position is that the local authority should instead use its Part 1 powers.[2]

In considering a prosecution for a breach of the management regulations, a local authority should also consider whether to take action under Part 1 Housing Act 2004.[3]

Enforcement under Part 1 is not available in respect of a HMO that is subject to management by a local authority (an Interim or Final Management Order) under Part 2 Housing Act 2004.[4]


The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.55(5)(c) and (6) Housing Act 2004.

[2] s.67(4) Housing Act 2004, paras 6.3 and 6.4 HHSRS Enforcement Guidance, February 2006.

[3] s.234 Housing Act 2004, para 6.5 HHSRS Enforcement Guidance, February 2006.

[4] ss.11, 12, 20, 21, 28, 29, 40, 43 and 46 Housing Act 2004.

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