Houses in Multiple Occupation

The 2004 Housing Act introduced the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). The aim of licensing HMOs is to improve the health, safety and welfare standards and ensure satisfactory management of this high risk area of the private rented sector.

What are Houses in Multiple Occupation?

A building, or part of building is an HMO if it meets one of the following criteria:

  • Any building in which two or more households share basic amenities (or the lacks an amenity) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities; or
  • Any flat in which two or more households share basic amenities; or
  • Any converted building which comprises of one or more units of accommodation that are not self contained; or
  • Any converted building which comprises of self contained flats and the standard of conversion does not meet the 1991 Building Regulation Standards and more than one third of the flats are occupied on short tenancies.  

Which HMOs must be licensed? It is now compulsory to licence larger, high risk HMOs that are:

  • Three or more storeys high;
  • Have five or more people from two or more households (i.e. people not related, living together as a couple, etc); and
  • Share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities.

Anyone who owns or manages an HMO that must be licensed must apply for a licence. Failure to apply for a licence is an offence and you could be liable for a fine of up to £20,000.

The Council does have powers to require licensing of other HMOs: this is additional licensing. Currently Wealden District Council have no plans to introduce additional licensing in the area.

How do I apply for a licence?

To apply for a licence, you will need to complete an HMO Licence application form (pdf), provide certain information about the property e.g. gas safety certificate, electrical certificate and pay a fee. please click on the link for guidance on completing the application form. There are also Guidance notes (pdf) available which will assist you in completing the application form.

How will the Council decide whether or not to grant a licence?

The Council will consider the following factors:

  • Whether the HMO is reasonably suitable for the number of occupiers;
  • Whether the landlord and/or managing agent is suitable to manage the HMO (they must be a 'fit and proper person');
  • Whether the facilities e.g. toilets, bathrooms and cooking facilities within the HMO are suitable; and
  • Whether the general management arrangements are suitable.

Can the Council attach conditions to the licence?

Yes, when a licence is granted it will come with conditions attached to ensure that the standards in the HMO continue to be maintained. There are mandatory conditions which require the licence holder to:

  • Produce an annual gas safety certificate
  • Keep electrical appliances and furniture supplied by the landlord in a safe condition and to supply declarations of their safety to the Council on demand
  • Install smoke alarms and keep them in proper working order and to supply a declaration of their positioning and condition to the Council on demand
  • Supply to occupiers of the HMO a written statement of terms on which they occupy the house    

We may also specify additional conditions such as those relating to the facilities in the HMO, its condition and the management of the building, including how the licence holder deals with the behaviour of occupiers.

What happens if I breach any of the conditions on the licence?

If you fail to meet the conditions on a licence without a reasonable excuse you are committing a criminal offence and could face a fine of up to £5,000. If the breach is a serious or persistent one you may also have your licence revoked. The Council may revoke the licence if it considers management of the HMO to be unsatisfactory or that the HMO is no longer suitable to house the number of occupiers

How much does a licence cost?

Every Local Authority sets its own fees and the fee can only cover the cost of licensing the HMO and can not be used to subsidise other Council work. 

The cost of a licence will vary according to the number of people who occupy the HMO and the type of HMO. The fee is not refundable if a licence is not granted.

For full details please contact the Property Services Team.

How long does a licence last for?

A license will normally last for 5 years, although the Council can grant a licence for a shorter period if it considers it necessary. Before the end of the licence period, you will be required to apply for a new licence. 

A licence can not be transferred and when a licence holder of an HMO either sells the property or ceases to be the most appropriate person to hold the licence, the new owner/manager will need to apply for a new licence. If someone controls or manages more than one HMO, they must apply for separate licences for each building.

The licence fee is not transferable to any new licence holder, nor is any refund available to anyone who ceases to be a licence holder.

What is a fit and proper person?

When considering whether an applicant is a fit and proper person, we have to take account of the requirements of Section 66 of the Housing Act 2004. Matters which might cause the Council to consider someone not a fit and proper include;

  • Offences of fraud
  • Offences of dishonesty
  • Offences of violence
  • Drug offences
  • Unlawful discrimination in business
  • Contravention's of housing law

What does 'reasonably suitable for the number of occupiers' mean?

The Council has introduced prescribed standards for deciding the suitability for occupation of an HMO by a particular maximum number of households or people. The standards covers such things as:

  • Heating and insulation
  • Number,type and quality of bathrooms, toilets, wash hand basins and showers;
  • Number, type and quality of food storage, preparation and cooking facilities;
  • Room sizes; and
  • Fire precaution facilities.

A copy of the prescribed standards (pdf) can be found on our website.

What is the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and how does it apply to an HMO?

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) has replaced the former 'fitness for human habitation' standard, as the minimum standard for housing. It applies across all residential premises, including HMOs.

The HHSRS is concerned with avoiding, or at the very least minimising, potential hazards in a building and it imposes duties on the council to take action in the most serious cases. The Government has produced guidance for landlords and managers to help them assess and eliminate the risks of such hazards.

What is an Interim Management Order?

An Interim Management Order or IMO can be made by the Council to ensure that immediate steps are taken to protect the health, safety and welfare of occupiers of HMO's. The Act actually stipulates that in circumstances where the Council are unable to grant an HMO licence they should make an IMO. Once an IMO is in force the Council effectively takes over the management of the relevant property. This includes collecting all rent and taking any steps to protect residents health and safety.

Further Information

Below are some other useful leaflets, forms and information on HMO's  

Because HMO Licensing is covered by the European Services Directive, if you are registered on the Government Gateway (external link), you can apply online using the UK Welcomes Service:

Apply Online for a HMO Licence (external link)

You can also use the same service to renew your existing HMO Licence:

Renew your HMO Licence Online (external link)

Contact the Property Services Team

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