What is a HMO?


What Is an HMO?

What is an HMO is what many people wonder when they first hear someone use the term HMO, especially if they are not landlords?

HMO is a term used to define accommodation that is owned by a private landlord and shared by people who are not from the same family.

HMO is an abbreviation for” House in Multiple Occupation”. The detailed definition of an HMO could be described as: A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’ but share facilities like the bathroom, kitchen and maybe a lounge if one exists.

What is an HMO used for?

HMO’s are used by students, short term employment for people who are working away from home and single people who find it more economical to live in an HMO.

Most people renting from an HMO landlord usually would be looking to rent for the short term; they rarely have long term tenants. The frequency of tenants changing in a house in multiple occupation is a lot higher than say someone who rents a house.

For people who have separated and need to live somewhere temporarily or those who have been evicted and are not deemed urgent cases by the council find an HMO an ideal short-term solution.

What does an HMO include?

HMO rent a tenant pays usually include the Council tax and the utility bills. The tenants living in an HMO will usually hold an Assured Shorthold tenancy especially if the landlord does not live in the property.

There is a range of various types of accommodation that may fall under the above definition, depending on the number of people living in the property—a few bedsits in one building.

You can have some flats that are HMO’s and some houses that have been converted to an HMO; they can include:

A hostel

Halls of residence (private)

A shared house or large flat

A block of converted flats

Individual shared self-contained cluster flats.

Is an HMO safe to live in?

HMO legislation dictates a much higher standard of safety when it comes to an HMO. The larger number of people under one roof living and cooking separately brings into play higher risk of fire and other safety issues. All HMO landlords need to comply with a higher safety regime than those landlords renting a flat to one small family.

Gas Annual safety checks must be carried out, and electrical system checks need to be carried out every five years. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted too as a safety requirement of an HMO.

Sanitation – It is essential to ensure that there are adequate rubbish disposal facilities, bins, and bin bags. It also includes providing washing and cooking facilities of a reasonable standard.

Facilities – landlords are required in law not to overcrowd and keep the kitchen, bathroom, WC, and communal areas in a good safe state, of repair.

Living in an HMO 

Living in an HMO generally is challenging for the following reasons: Due to sharing the kitchen, bathroom, WC and possibly the lounge well as rubbing shoulders up and downstairs, one does not have the same level of privacy as living in your own property.

One of the other problems some tenants face is the fridge and food cupboards. Some tenants have experienced regular occurrences where someone else has used their milk or the bread has disappeared.

The issue of noise is a common complaint many HMO landlords face, loud music, or noisy sex at unsocial hours.

Hygiene is another issue that some tenants complain off, not everyone is clean and tidy, and this can be a serious issue for some tenants that are clean and tidy.

Does an HMO landlord need a license?

Not all HMO’s need a license, however increasing numbers of local authorities are introducing licensing schemes. Licensing and HMO compliance is expensive, and these costs are in part, passed on to the tenant resulting in higher rents.

Safety requirements of an HMO

These include things like:

valid gas safety certificate

installing the relevant smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

Locks for each bedroom (preferably thumb turn locks)

Emergency lighting for fire safety

HMO minimum room size obligation where a landlord must notify the local housing authority of any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres.

HMO landlords need to ensure their insurance policy covers an HMO, as not all landlord insurance policies cover a house of multiple occupancies.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into force in March 2019, and HMO landlords need to comply with this legislation.

The legislation dictates all rented accommodation is required to be suitable for Human Habitation at the start of the tenancy and throughout.

Some of these include damp ventilation, overcrowding, drainage, and water supply. There are 29 hazards outlined in the HHSRS regulations.

Source: British Landlords Association

Author: Amanda Goldsmith


Date: 7th of October 2020

The British Landlords Association is a free national landlords association. Why not join us today!

Landlords can obtain free advice regarding licensing from Landlord Advice UK

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