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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO's)

Mandatory Licensing

It has been a legal requirement to licence properties that are defined as Mandatory HMOs since 2006. You must have a licence if you are renting out a HMO that falls under the Mandatory Licensing prescribed definition.

This definition changed in October 2018, removing the storey criteria. This means the following properties will need to be licensed under the mandatory scheme:

  • All HMOs with five or more occupiers living in two or more different households who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom regardless of the number of storeys.
  • Self-contained flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both of the flats are occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households. This will apply regardless of whether the block is above or below commercial premises. This will bring certain flats above shops on high streets within mandatory licensing as well as small blocks of flats which are not connected to commercial premises.

It is the individual HMO that is required to be licensed and not the building within which the HMO is situated. This means that where a building has two flats and each is occupied by five persons living in two or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

Research for the Department by Entec Ltd identified several factors, in addition to the number of occupants, which influence the risk from fire in HMOs. These include:

  • The number of storeys - HMOs of three or more pose a significantly higher risk; the nature of the occupancy
  • HMOs housing dependant or vulnerable persons pose a higher risk than those housing the able bodied and cognisant; the quality of management in the HMO;
  • and a number of factors relating to the internal design of the HMO, such as the degree of self-containment of the units of accommodation, and the number of escape routes and their fire rating.

The risk of death from fire in HMOs will vary considerably, as all these factors will interact differently in each individual case. However, Entec found that in several types of HMO the risk is considerably higher than in comparable single occupancy dwellings.

For example, occupants of houses comprising bedsits are about six times more likely to die as a result of fire than adults in an ordinary house. But in other cases, for example two storey shared houses and houses with lodgers, there may be little or no additional risk.