What is an HMO?

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a building (or part of a building, such as a flat or bedsit) that:

  • is occupied by more than one household and where more than one household shares amenities (or lacks amenities) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities

  • is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building, but not entirely made up of self-contained flats (whether some amenities are shared or lacking).

  • is made up of self-contained flats but the conversion does not meet, at a minimum, the standard required by the Building Regulations 1991, and at least one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

A household refers to:

  • families, including single people, couples and same sex couples

  • other relationships, such as foster and other carers and domestic staff.

The building may be occupied by more than one household:

  • as their only or main residence

  • as a refuge for people escaping domestic violence

  • by students during term time

  • for other purposes prescribed by the government.

Licence summary

HMO licences are required for all properties that:

  • have three or more storeys (habitable cellars, basements, attics and lofts are included as a storey) and

  • are occupied by five or more people forming two or more households (a household can be one person).

HMO licences need to be renewed every five years.

Important change in law

With effect from 1 October 2018, the definition of an HMO will change. Under the new rules, properties that meet the following criteria will be subject to mandatory licensing:

  • HMOs occupied by five or more persons forming two or more households, regardless of the number of storeys
  • purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as an HMO. 

If you have a property that meets the description above and you do not already hold a licence for that property then you will need to apply to the council for a licence. If your property already has a licence, this will remain valid until its normal expiry date.

Further details on this change in legislation can be found on the government’s website.

What happens if I don't apply for a licence?

You could get an unlimited fine for renting out an unlicensed HMO.

Are there any restrictions?

You must be a fit and proper person to hold an HMO licence. We may carry out checks to verify if you have:

  • any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud

  • previously broken any housing related laws or laws relating to landlord and tenant issues

  • previously managed HMOs that have breached any approved code of practice.

How do I apply?

Complete the application and pay the fee online. You will also need to provide a site layout plan showing the site boundaries and the proposed arrangements of the HMO accommodation.

Apply for an HMO Licence Online

After we receive your application we will arrange to inspect your HMO to make sure it meets the required standards for condition [PDF, size unavailable], management, facilities and fire safety. If we find that the premises are satisfactory we will issue you with a licence and details of any licence conditions.


  • initial licence: £350

  • licence renewal: £175

  • revocation of licence: £100

If an HMO fails to meet the terms and conditions of the licence, a further charge of £97 per additional officer/visit plus any third party costs (such as gas engineers’ fees) may be payable when you renew your licence.

Does tacit consent apply?

No. You must obtain a licence before operating an HMO.

What are the penalties for failing to have a licence?

It is a criminal offence to operate a licensable HMO without a licence. You can be fined up to £20,000 for failing to obtain a licence and up to £5,000 for breaching a licence condition.

In certain circumstances, landlords may be required to repay any rent or housing benefit received while the HMO was not licensed.

We are authorised to take control of a property if there is no reasonable prospect of it being licensed in order to protect the safety, health and welfare of occupiers and neighbours.

Appeals and complaints

If you are refused a licence or want to appeal against a licence condition you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) within 28 days of the decision being made.

Consumer complaint

We advise that consumer complaints are first made to the trader, preferably in the form of a letter (with proof of delivery). If that does not work, further advice is available from Citizens Advice.

If you have any concerns or complaints about an HMO or suspect that an HMO is not licensed, please contact us.