One question that many landlords, managers and owners fail to ask is this: Is my property a HMO? This is critical because it has many ramifications on the duties of a landlord.

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is one defined as a rented property (house or flat) with three or more occupiers that make up more than one household and said occupiers share at least one basic amenity, such as a kitchen or bath. In essence, a ‘household’ is one consisting of members of the same family.

If couple decides to rent out a portion of the home to an unrelated person, you have an HMO. If your spouse dies and you take on a renter to help pay the bills, you are not an HMO (two people, not three). Additionally, although a block of flats does not meet the test of an HMO, an individual flat might.

Whether you fall under the mandatory licensing requirement is a tricky question. The test involves the number of people and the number of stories. A two-storey home occupied by five or more persons from two or more households falls under ‘Additional Licensing’ not Mandatory; a three-storey property with five or more persons from two or more households falls under ‘Mandatory Licensing’ requirements.

The regulations for HMOs are numerous and I can’t cover them all here. If you require licensing, your property will be inspected for ‘suitability’ with respect to the proposed number of occupants. The council will give you an amount of time to make all repairs or amendments.

New landlords are the most vulnerable to non-compliance with HMO regulations. For landlords, it can be difficult to regulate tenants bringing in a third, unrelated renter to help pay the bills. The HMO regulations focus on ‘occupiers’ rather than ‘tenants’, so it is a landlord’s duty to ensure that their tenants are complying with the written lease in this respect.

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