Private sector housing

What is a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?

If you own a property and want to let it out to five or more families who will be sharing a kitchen, bathroom or toilet it may be an HMO and you may need a licence before you can rent it out. An HMO is sometimes called a ‘house share’.

What is an HMO?

A rented property is an HMO if the property is the tenant's only or main residence for the duration of the rental period, and either:

  • there are five or more occupants who make up two or more households and share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
  • it is a building that is converted into self-contained flats and the conversion did not meet the 1991 Building Regulation standards and more than one-third of the flats are let on short term tenancies

Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence. The same applies to properties that are used as domestic refuges.


The following are not houses in multiple occupation (HMOs):

  • a property where the landlord and his household is resident with up to two tenants or lodgers
  • a two-person flat-share
  • a property or part of a property lived in by no more than two people
  • buildings converted into self-contained flats and at least two-thirds are occupied by long leaseholders (a long lease is 21 years or more)
  • buildings managed or controlled by a public body, such as the police, NHS, a local housing authority or registered social landlord
  • buildings where the residential accommodation is not the main use of the building, such as religious buildings
  • buildings that are already regulated (and where the description of the building is specified in the regulations) such as care homes
  • buildings converted into self-contained flats and meet 1991 (or more recent) building regulations
  • purpose-built blocks of flats - unless any of the flats are shared by more than two tenants in two or more households
  • student accommodation which is in the control of an educational establishment

Minimum standards for an HMO

The minimum standards provide guidance to tenants and landlords on what to expect in HMOs. They help ensure that HMOs meet a wide range of housing needs and provide good value for money. Many of these standards are expected in all HMOs whether they need a licence or not. If they are not met, the Council can serve a notice and use the Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS) to ensure that the HMO is brought up to standard.

You can find more information relating to standards in The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 Schedule 3.