March 5, 2024 11:45 am

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Nikka Sulton

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a residence occupied by three or more individuals, forming more than one household. This includes converted buildings with self-contained flats not meeting 1991 Building Regulations.


  • A household can be a single person or several family members.
  • Example: A house with a brother, sister, and another unrelated occupant constitutes two households.
  • The tenancy agreement and property size (number of storeys) don’t determine HMO status.


A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) refers to residential properties where shared common areas exist for more than one household. Most HMOs are converted from larger family houses, and legislation distinguishes between long-lease and short-term tenant occupancy.

Originating from fire safety laws after preventable deaths, HMOs typically have shared bathrooms, kitchens, and other common areas. Legally compliant HMOs prioritize fireproofing due to historical tragedies. The Housing Act 2004 mandated licensing for large HMOs with specific tenant and facility criteria.

The 2018 amendment eliminated the “3 or more floors” requirement for large HMOs but excluded purpose-built flats in blocks. Local Authorities can implement licensing schemes for smaller HMOs, usually with 3 or more tenants forming a household.

In England and Wales, a large HMO is defined by having at least five tenants forming more than one household, sharing toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities. Landlords must obtain a license and adhere to standards, with exceptions for specific entities like housing associations or councils.


Article 4 Directions in HMO Conversion:

In areas with Article 4 directions, converting a dwelling to HMO requires planning permission to preserve housing mix, decided by local authorities.


Local Authority Powers in HMO Licensing:

Local authorities in England and Wales regulate HMO licensing, with powers to vary property size, license fees, and conditions, requiring landlords to adhere to specific standards.


Tenant Recourse for Unlicensed HMOs:

Failure to apply for or comply with HMO licensing terms is a criminal offense. Tenants can seek rent recovery, up to 12 months, from unlicensed landlords. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 allows direct Rent Repayment Order applications by tenants, bypassing the need for council prosecution, leading to successful cases against unlicensed HMO landlords.


HMO management standards 

When evaluating HMO managers, the council assesses:


1. Competence:

   – Ensures the person(s) can effectively manage the HMO.


2. Fit and Proper Person:

   – Evaluates the individual’s suitability and integrity for HMO management.


3. Landlord Registration Scheme:

   – Verifies registration with the Landlord Registration Scheme.


4. Management and Financial Structures:

   – Checks for adequate structures in management and finances.



HMO code of practice


Landlord and Property Manager Responsibilities:


1. Code Adherence:

   – Follow the HMO Code of Practice, addressing issues like accommodation standards, safety, repairs, and waste disposal.


2. Displaying Code:

   – Display a copy of the code in the property for tenant awareness.


Application to Tenants:


1. Tenant Responsibilities:

   – Provide reasonable access, follow waste disposal instructions, and offer information required for code compliance.


2. Prohibited Actions:

   – Tenants must not obstruct HMO manager duties, use portable gas appliances, or damage the property.


Enforcement and Warning:


1. Written Warning:

   – Issue a written warning if tenants violate the code.


2. Tenancy Termination:

   – Consider terminating tenancy if code violations persist.



Applying for a HMO licence


Online Application:

Applying for an HMO licence is a streamlined process facilitated through online channels. Prospective landlords can submit their application and complete the necessary payment online. It’s essential to include all required property paperwork during the application process.


Publication Requirement:

As part of the application procedure, details of the HMO licence application must be published in a local newspaper. This step not only fulfills a legal requirement but also allows members of the public to raise objections if necessary.


License Fee Structure:


Determining Factors:

The fee for an HMO licence is determined by factors such as the property’s capacity, which is assessed based on the sizes of individual bedrooms and the legal occupancy standards.


Five-Year License:

Typically, an HMO licence is valid for a period of five years. The associated fee for this duration is £185 per occupant, reflecting the property’s capacity.


Additional Fees:


Changes and Adjustments:

Should there be any modifications or adjustments needed, the Belfast City Council’s HMO Unit may impose additional fees. It’s important to note that substantial changes might require a new licence application.

Navigating the fee structure diligently is crucial for a smooth application process and ensuring ongoing compliance with HMO licensing regulations.





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