What’s the difference between an HMO and a property that’s not an HMO?

What is an HMO?

HMO The abbreviation stands for a House in Multiple Occupation.

Several types of accommodation could fall under this definition. It does depend on how many people are living on the property and what the living arrangements are.

As a rule, where there are three or more tenants in a property who make up more than one household with shared toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities, this could be an HMO. This could cover:

  • One building with several bedsits.
  • A hostel
  • Private Halls of residence
  • A shared house
  • A block of converted flats
  • Individual shared self-contained cluster of flats.

Whether you have an HMO depends typically on the number of ‘households,’ which is either a member of the same family living together (couples, half, and step relations, for example) or a single person.

HMO’s have various levels of safety, especially fire safety regulations when compared to a standard dwelling.

This is due to the considerable number of people under one roof. House in Multiple Occupation landlords has a higher standard to meet. For example:

  • Fire – The property must have fire doors with appropriate door frames, which need to be at least half-hour fire doors.
  • Safety – gas safety checks need to be conducted annually, and the electrical system checks every five years. Compliant smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted at the appropriate locations.
  • Sanitation – HMO landlords need to ensure there are adequate rubbish disposal facilities, bins, and bin bags. They need to Provide washing and cooking facilities that meet the standard.
  • Facilities – Overcrowding by an HMO landlord can lead to a hefty fine. It is also essential to keep shared communal areas in a good state of repair.

Living in an HMO 

HMO and its communal aspect of living can mean people can make new friends. This allows tenants to pay lower living costs than one would if renting alone.

The negative side to living in a House in Multiple Occupation means lack of privacy and nuisance; loud music, other tenants may work unsociable hours etc.

HMO properties tend to have more wear and tear due to the number of people living in the property and the frequency of people moving in and out of an HMO.

This means more frequent repairs and decorating costs for the landlord.

With an HMO property like other none HMO’s, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to make repairs to electrical wiring, fixed heaters, radiators, water and gas pipes and water heaters, sinks, basins, and toilets, as well as the structure of the building.

In the event of repairs that may need doing, the tenant must notify the landlord. Repairs like changing a light bulb – tenants can do.

What’s the difference between an HMO and a non-HMO property?

The fundamental difference is that an HMO tenant can complain to the local council, who are more likely to act than a non-HMO property.

This is due to stricter regulations that govern HMO’s.

The Environmental Health Department is responsible for dealing with complaints about health and safety issues.

They have legal powers to compel landlords to rectify any problems that a landlord is obliged legally to carry out.

The council can prosecute both the landlord and any managers that they have working for them.

Through the courts, the council can even take over the management of the property themselves.

HMO licensing 

Some properties require a licence but not all of them. A licence can be obtained from the local authority.

A licence may be required where the property is at least three storeys high.

At least two separate households are living there, and in total, five or more unrelated people live in the building.

A landlord with a property that meets the above requirements may need to apply for a local authority licence.

A determination will need to be made whether they are a “fit and proper person” to be an HMO landlord.

The council will also look at factors such as the safety features of the property. Its size to see if it complies with the requirements of a House in Multiple Occupation.

If you’re a tenant in a building that is a House in Multiple Occupation, then it’s a good idea to check that the landlord has an HMO licence.

Landlords who do not obtain a licence when they should have one could face a fine.

An HMO landlord without a licence (who should have one) is barred from using the section 21 eviction process.

HMO landlord training Courses

The British Landlords Association offer specific HMO courses for residential landlords and those who wish to manage HMO properties.

The course covers residential properties that may need licensing legislation as well as all other HMO related topics.

Converting a property to an HMO

A local authority within five years will visit the landlord’s property that has been converted into an HMO.

The council will conduct a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) risk assessment to identify any property issues.

It would help if you calculated the cost of Licensing towards your costs for operating a House in Multiple Occupation.

Another legislation landlord needs to comply with – is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into force in March 2019.

This legislation means all rented accommodation must be suitable for human habitation at the start of the tenancy and throughout.

This legislation provides tenants with more powers to hold their landlord responsible if their property is substandard.

What does HMO mean in property?

It is a house in multiple occupation rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (for example a family) but they share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’.

The British Landlords Association is a free national landlords Association, join us for free membership now!

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