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What you need to know about Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

As a landlord, you will hear the term HMO bandied around plenty, but you may be less clear on what exactly it means.

HMO stands for a House in Multiple Occupation. This means a house that is occupied by more than 2 qualifying persons who are not part of the same family.

A qualifying person counts as someone whose only or main place of residence is the HMO. This includes students living in their term-time accommodation, because this is regarded as the student’s only or principal place of residence while they are living there.

It’s considered a large HMO if the property is at least three storeys high, if at least five tenants (forming more than one household) live there and if these tenants share facilities.

Nearly all shared houses will be HMOs, meaning that a large part of the student accommodation market falls under this category.

If your portfolio includes an HMO, there are additional legal responsibilities that you need to be aware of. The extra regulation is there to ensure that those living in shared homes or flats have good facilities and are put at less risk of i.e. fire hazards.

If you own an HMO, amongst other things, you must ensure that a gas safety check is carried out annually, that there is appropriate cooking and washing facilities, that communal areas and shared facilities are kept clean and in a good state of repair, that the property is not overcrowded and that there are enough rubbish bins for tenants’ use.

Rigorous fire safe measures must also be put in place. Depending on whether you as a landlord own a large or a small HMO property, you will need to get smoke and heat alarms fitted or a full fire alarm and emergency lighting system installed. Both the smoke detectors as well as the full fire alarm systems must be checked regularly by a competent person.

In addition, landlords should get the electrical wiring of your HMO checked regularly , as any landlord will be held responsible if the electrics are found to be defective.

Landlords also have an obligation to tenants when it comes to energy efficiency and will need to make an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) available to the tenants when marketing the property to them.

As well as this, landlords have a responsibility for repairs to communal areas of the HMO, as well as repairs to water and gas pipes,electrical wiring, bathroom fixtures and fittings, radiators, water heaters and the maintenance of things like walls, window frames and gutters.

Not all HMOs need to be licensed, however. You must get a license from the council if your HMO is at least three storeys high, has five or more unrelated people living in it or if it has two or more separate households living there.

Different councils have different rules on which HMOs need to be licensed and which don’t, so it’s wise to check with your local council to see if you need to be registered.

Generally speaking, licences last for five years, but some councils will only grant them for shorter periods.

If you have a HMO that should be licensed but isn’t, you could face hefty fines, so it’s important to know what your obligations are when it comes to renting your (student) property.

Whether you need a HMO licence or you don’t, you must still comply with HMO law. It’s a common misconception among landlords that, if the HMO doesn’t need a license, it doesn’t need to adhere to HMO management regulations either.

In reality, all HMO properties are subject to HMO Management Regulations. This ensures, among other things, that fire safety is a major priority, communal areas are kept intact and HMOs are kept clean, safe and habitable.

For more info check out this handy summary of what these regulations include

It’s advisable to check with the housing section of the Environmental Health department of your local authority for more details on what your obligations are, especially regarding fire regulations.

With most student accommodation subject to these regulations, it’s more important than ever for landlords of student property to know their responsibilities.

As well as the local council, a knowledgeable student/ HMO letting agent can help landlords when it comes to compliance. Builders who have fitted up HMOs may also be able to lend advice.

For more info about letting HMOs in university cities such as Salford, Manchester and Bolton, please get in touch with Student Haus Manchester on 0161 743 3648 or

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