WHAT IS AN HMO?2019-05-22T16:48:57+00:00


To determine what is an HMO we need to start with what ‘HMO’ stands for ie. House in Multiple Occupancy or House of Multiple Occupation.  The standard definition of a section 254 HMO is:

  • 3 or more tenants
  • More than 1 household
  • Shared facilities

What is a “household”?

  • A single person, or members of the same family who live together.
  • Each tenant from a separate family is classed as a separate household.

What constitutes a “family”?

  • Tenants who are married or living together as a couple, form one family. This includes couples in same-sex relationships and their children.
  • All relatives & half-relatives count as the same family e.g. grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, siblings & step-siblings.
  • Any household domestic staff are included in the household if they do not pay rent while living with the person(s) they are working for, this may also depend on their contract terms.


Get in touch to speak with our specialists consultants. We can give you bespoke and detailed advice to navigate the process of ensuring you are compliant.


  • 3 brother or sisters living together are 1 household – NOT an HMO
  • 3 friends living together are 3 households – IS an HMO
  • 2 couples living together are 2 households – IS an HMO
  • 1 couple and 1 single unrelated person are 2 households – IS an HMO

To be classified as an 254 HMO the property must meet the standards defined in the description above, and meet the standard conversion test, self-contained flat test or converted building test. The full definition of all HMO’s can be found in the Housing Act 2004 Sections 254 to 260.

A section 257 HMO is a whole building that has been converted into self-contained flats that meet specific criteria. The full details of what constitutes a section 257 HMO is under the additional licensing section.


There is no legal definition of a ‘shared house’ and so this term can sometimes cause confusion. The key point of a shared house HMO, is that the occupants are known to each other and there is therefore a level of interaction between them that resembles the way in which a family would be living together. Normally such properties will have additional shared space for socialising such as a dining room and / or lounge.

In a shared house all tenants are on the same tenancy agreement and all tenants have exclusive legal possession and control of all parts of the house, including all the bedrooms. There should therefore be no locks on internal doors apart from bathrooms. Whilst shared houses fall within the legal definition of an HMO and will be licensable where licensing criteria are met, it is recognised that they can often present a lower fire risk than traditional bedsit-type HMOs due to these characteristics.


A building which has been divided into individual non self-contained lettings, let to individual tenants. Each bedsit letting will usually comprise only one room (sometimes more) which may contain cooking/food preparation facilities, washing facilities and living/sleeping space. Sometimes bathrooms and WCs are shared between a number of bedsits. The actual facilities contained within each bedsit letting will vary from property to property.

Although many people immediately think of bed-sit type accommodation, the vast majority of HMOs in London were previously family homes, now being shared by young professional people.

A common part will be created in this circumstance and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 will apply to the property.


  • Those occupied by the resident landlord and a maximum of two other persons who are not part of his or her household
  • Those occupied by no more than two persons.
  • Buildings which are already regulated such as care homes etc (definition can be complex and domestic refuges are not exempt).
  • Buildings owned or managed by a local housing authority or a registered social landlord or public body ie. police or NHS.

Schedule 14 of the Housing Act 2004 lists all the exemptions.

HMOs can be classified by the size; small and large. A Small HMO is up to 6 tenants, from more than 1 household, sharing facilities whereas a large HMO is 7+ tenants, from more 1 than household, sharing facilities. If you are considering or are currently running a large HMO you will require planning permission from your local Council  in order to do so. You may also require planning permission for a small HMO if your brough operates an Article 4 directive. (link to planning and Article 4 directive page)

It is important to note that HMO Management Regulations 2006 apply whether you require a property licence or not.


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