Houses in multiple occupation

When do you need an HMO licence?

You will need an HMO Licence when all the following apply to a property:

  • there are five or more occupants
  • there is more than one household (see below)
  • occupants share facilities such as a kitchen, toilet or bathroom

Under the Housing Act 2004, a ‘household’ can contain:

  • a single person
  • co-habiting couples (including same-sex couples)
  • a family (including foster children and children being cared for) and current domestic employees

For example, a four-bedroom house with one couple and three single occupants who share a kitchen and bathroom would require an HMO Licence.  

Advice for landlords and managers who manage an HMO can be found at the GOV.UK HMO guide for landlords and managers.

An HMO property will also need to follow the government’s electrical safety standards for private rented properties. You can find out more at the GOV.UK guide for electrical safety standards.

Managing an HMO without a Licence is a criminal offence. Landlords could face a civil penalty of up to £30,000 or criminal prosecution where further costs could be added. A Rent Repayment Order (RRO) can also be requested by tenants to claim back rent they have paid to you.

You will need a separate licence for each HMO that you run. You will also need to renew your licence every five years and before it runs out.

Since 1st October 2018, a licence is needed for HMO’s regardless of the number of floors in the property. The previous rule where only three floors or more required to be licensed will be removed.


Some exemptions from HMO Licensing include:

  • buildings managed by a local housing authority, registered social landlord, police/fire and rescue authority or a health service body
  • buildings already controlled under some other statutory provisions (Schedule 1 to SI 2006 Number 373)
  • some student halls of residence
  • buildings occupied for a religious community whose main activity is prayer, contemplation, education or the relief of suffering
  • buildings that are owner occupied with no more than two lodgers

You can use this flowchart to decide if you need a licence.