More and more accidental landlords could find themselves falling into the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) category without even realising it. The traditional idea of an HMO conjures up the image of a block or property split up into multiple different residences each containing tenants with no connection to each other; a position most small-time landlords don’t expect to find themselves in. But the reality is even a small two-bedroom flat being rented to a couple and their friend would constitute an HMO. Which means that the landlord may require an HMO licence. Given that the fine for letting an unlicensed HMO is up to £20,000, it’s worth making landlords aware of the extended HMO criteria.
How do I know if I need an HMO license?
Although all larger HMOs (categorised as a property rented to more than 5 people who form more than one household and share facilities) require a mandatory license, the law is more vague when it comes to smaller HMOs. Whether or not they need a license depends entirely on the discretion of the local council – so any landlords who suspect their property might be an HMO should contact their local council.
What constitutes a separate household?
When it comes to HMOs, a 'household' is defined as one of the following:
- A single person
- A co-habiting couple
- A married couple
- Members of the same family such as cousins, siblings, grandparents etc
So if you have three un-related people sharing a flat, that's a household of three people. A couple and their friend sharing premises is defined as two households. But these could all meet the definition of an HMO depending on the local authority.
My council says I need a license? What next?
If the local council says you do need an HMO license, be aware that simply getting the license (and renewing it every 5 years) will not be the only requirement. In addition, landlords will be expected to:
Make sure the house is suitable for the number of occupants (this will depend on its size and facilities)
Ensure the property has an up to date gas safety certificate every year
Install and maintain smoke alarms
Provide safety certificates for all electrical appliances when requested.
Each individual council may also have its own conditions to add to the license – these will be outlined on application.
This blog is by no means an exhaustive examination of the different types of HMO available and the requirements for each. It is, however, an attempt to raise landlord awareness about the broad definition of an HMO – and the ramifications that this may have on them.
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