Home Landlords What is a House in Multiple Occupation or HMO

What is a House in Multiple Occupation or HMO

by Joe Green

Today we ask the question ‘what is a HMO?’. A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a common type of accommodation which tenants live in while at university. They are usually a lower cost alternative to both private PBSA and University halls of residence. They are common with student landlords as is allows them to maximise the rental income from their property by housing a greater number of tenants than normal. While HMO are generally associated with students, there are a significant number aimed at younger professionals and other types of tenants.

What is a HMO – Definition

The Government defines a HMO as “a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 household, for example a family, but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen”.

A landlord usually requires an HMO licence if their property meets the following criteria and is considered a Large HMO;

  • The property is rented to 5 or more people who form more than 1 household.
  • Some or all tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.
  • at least 1 tenant pays rent.

Up until October 1st 2018, to meet the requirement of a Large HMO, a property also needed to have three habitable storeys, however this requirement has now been dropped. A LArge HMO can now include both two storey properties and one storey properties such as flats.

An HMO licence is valid for a maximum of 5 years.

Minimum Room Sizes

Landlords want to maximise their rental income, and with HMO properties it usually means converting a living area, or other spare room into an additional bedroom. However since October 1st 2018, there are minimum bedroom sizes. For student landlords these minimum sizes are; 6.51 m² for one person and 10.22 m² for two people. Any area where the ceiling height is less than 1.5 m is not considered usable space and cannot be included in the room area. This may be of particular importance to bedrooms formed in converted loft spaces where the ceiling may be lower, or angled.

Local Councils

While licensing is mandatory for all large HMO properties, it is the discretion of local councils to enforce licensing for any other HMO properties also. It is therefore vital to consult the local council where the property is located to find out whether it requires an HMO license or not. 

The local council will also be able to reveal the cost of an HMO licence, as they vary in different locations.


The purpose of HMO licensing is to ensure that privately rented properties are safe, well managed and of good quality with a particular focus on safety. In order to achieve this, a HMO license will usually be granted if the property meets the following requirements. 

  • Appropriate fire safety measures are in place such as smoke detectors, extinguishers etc
  • Annual gas safety checks are up-to-date
  • The electrical wiring and appliances have been checked and certified as safe every five years
  • The property is not overcrowded
  • There are adequate cooking and washing facilities
  • Communal and shared areas are kept clean and in good repair
  • There are appropriate refuse storage and disposal facilities

It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO that isn’t licensed, but is required to be, and if convicted, the fines for non-compliance are unlimited. Before beginning operation of a student HMO, landlords should check consult their local council to verify if the property requires an HMO license.


Foxtons. 2018. Accessed 5th December, 2019, from https://www.foxtons.co.uk/landlord/hmo-licence.html

Gov.uk. 2019. Accessed 5th December, 2019, from https://www.gov.uk/house-in-multiple-occupation-licence

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