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What are HMOs?

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An HMO is an accommodation that is owned by a landlord and is then shared among a number of people. HMO stands for a House in Multiple Occupations. There are a wide variety of different forms of accommodation that could fall under this term, depending on how many people live in that accommodation.

Generally, where there are three or more tenants in a property who make up more than one household with shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities, this could be classed as an HMO. 

Some examples of property types that could be considered an HMO are:

  • A number of bedsits in one building
  • A hostel
  • Halls of residence (private)
  • A shared house
  • A block of converted flats
  • Individual shared self-contained cluster flats.

HMO Standards

HMOs have different rules and standards that need to be followed in order to comply with the law to obtain the license. Simply because of the larger number of people under a single roof, the landlord of an HMO has higher standards to meet. For example:

  • Safety – gas safety checks must be carried out each and every year and the electrical system checks every five years. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted
  • Sanitation – ensuring that there are sufficient rubbish disposal facilities, bins and bin bags. Providing washing and cooking facilities of a certain standard are crucial
  • Facilities – landlords must prevent overcrowding and keep shared and communal areas in a good condition

Also important to remember is that if a landlord or property owner is converting a house or property into an HMO, they will need to undertake sound insulation testing, sometimes referred to as ‘sound testing’ as per UK Building Regulations before the property may be used as an HMO.

HMO Licensing

Some HMOs require a licence; however, this isn’t applicable to all types. The licence is obtained from the local authority. Without a license, if a property needs to be sold, it can prove problematic (source: ProperEaze).

It will usually be needed where the HMO is at least three storeys high and in total there are five or more unrelated people living in the HMO building.

A landlord with a property that meets the requirements has to apply for a licence to the local authority that will assess whether they are a ‘fit and proper’ person to be an HMO landlord. They will also look at various elements such as the safety features of the property and its size. If you’re a tenant in a building that could be an HMO then it’s advised to check that the landlord has a licence.

Those who don’t get one when they should can be fined one year’s rent and an HMO landlord without a licence, where they should, cannot use the section 21 notice procedure.

What classifies as an HMO?

The government has clear criteria for a house to be considered an HMO. These are listed on the official government website and are as follows:

Your home is an HMO if both of the following apply:

  • at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
  • you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants

Your home is a large HMO if both of the following apply:

  • at least 5 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
  • you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants

A household is either a single person or members of the same family who live together. A family includes people who are:

  • married or living together – including people in same-sex relationships
  • relatives or half-relatives, for example grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings
  • step-parents and step-children.

Living in an HMO

Most people who live in an HMO like the communal aspect of the living arrangements. It is also therefore a great way to make new friends, as well as paying lower living costs compared to living alone. Living in an HMO can therefore help keep living costs down, allowing residents to avoid having to borrow money in the form of online payday loans and other forms of short term finance.

In general, as there are more people in an HMO property, wear and tear can be more intense and so repairs and replacements may be required more often. As with traditional renting, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to make repairs to electrics, water and gas, as well as the structure of the building itself.

Tenants should notify a landlord when a repair is required.