Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

It is a legal requirement for certain Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) to be licensed. The criminal offence of operating a licensable HMO without a licence carries serious consequences for landlords and property managers, including possible prosecution in the magistrates’ court.  Local authorities are also able to issue landlords and property managers with civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence as an alternative to prosecution.
If you are a landlord or property manager you can apply for a licence here.
If you are concerned that a licensable property is operating without a licence you can report it by emailing or calling 01992 785577.

    What is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

    A rented property is a House in Multiple Occupation if:

    • The property is the tenant's only or main residence
    • Occupants share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet, AND
    • There are three or more tenants who make up two or more households, OR
    • It is a building that is converted into self-contained flats and the conversion did not meet the 1991 Building Regulation standards and more than one-third of the flats are let on short term tenancies

    The HMO could be:

    • An entire house or flat
    • A house which has been converted into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation
    • A converted house which contains one or more flats that are not wholly self-contained

    Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence. The same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

    Why does it matter?

    The risk of management problems is usually higher in HMO's as they are let to several people. Therefore, there are management regulations that place additional duties on HMO owners, managers and tenants. Find out more about HMO management regulations. 

    What are the exceptions?

    The following are not HMOs:

    • A property where the landlord and his household is resident with up to two tenants
    • A two-person flat share
    • A property or part of a property lived in by no more than two households each of which consists of only one person
    • Buildings occupied entirely by freeholders or long leaseholders
    • Buildings managed or controlled by a public body, such as the police or NHS, a local housing authority or registered social landlord
    • Buildings where the residential accommodation is not the main use of the building, such as religious buildings
    • Buildings which are already regulated (and where the description of the building is specified in regulations) such as care homes
    • Purpose built blocks of flats, unless any of the flats are shared by more than two tenants in two or more households

    Living in a HMO

    Although HMOs are an important source of housing they often present greater risks than homes occupied by a single household. This means that they need to be properly managed and maintained.

    Tenant responsibilities

    • report any repairs that need to be carried out to your landlord
    • do not use any dangerous electrical appliances
    • comply with the conditions of your tenancy agreement
    • do not deliberately damage anything that the landlord must keep in repair
    • comply with arrangements for fire safety and refuse disposal
    • allow the landlord reasonable access so they can carry out their duties 

    Landlord responsibilities

    • give tenants your contact details and tell them how they can report any problems
    • provide adequate, uninterrupted water supply and drainage
    • maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
    • supply and maintain gas (if any) and electricity
    • obtain a gas safety certificate every year
    • obtain an electrical safety certificate every five years (a requirement in licensed HMOs)
    • provide suitable means for disposing of household waste
    • if the property has an HMO licence, it must be displayed at the property 

    Fire safety in HMOs

    Risks of fire in an HMO are usually higher than in other types of residential properties. This means a good standard of fire safety is required in all types of HMO, whether or not a licence is required. Landlords are required to carry out a fire risk assessment to identify the risks and remove them where possible. When a risk cannot be completely removed then reasonable and practicable measures are to be taken to reduce that risk as much as possible, and the remaining risk is to be appropriately managed. In addition, clear instructions on what actions are to be taken in case of fire are to be documented and copies provided to tenants.

    The landlord is required by law to protect tenants from the risk of fire. This is enforced under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

    The Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, together with other partners, have produced a Guide to Fire Safety in Houses in Multiple Occupation.  In addition to advice and guidance you will find examples of completed and blank (from page 67) fire risk assessments, and fire precaution records (from page 65).

    HMO licensing

    How do I apply?

    You can apply online,or you can download an application form and apply by post by sending the completed application form together with ALL the supporting documents to: Private Sector Housing, Environmental Health, Broxbourne Borough Council, Bishops’ College Churchgate Cheshunt EN8 9XQ. Or sending them via email to  

    If you have more than one HMO, you will need to make a separate application for each. The Council will confirm receipt of your application within five working days. 

    Do I need a licence?

    You need a licence if you own or manage a HMO which has:

    • Five or more occupants that form two or more households; and
    • They share some kitchen, bathroom or living facilities.

    You will not need a licence if the property is:

    • Occupied by you and members of your family and you have no more than two lodgers
    • Converted into self-contained flats and meets 1991 (or more recent) Building Regulations
    • Converted into self-contained flats and at least two-thirds are occupied by long leaseholders. A long lease is 21 years or more.
    • Student accommodation which is in the control of an educational establishment
    • Occupied by religious communities 
    • Managed by a registered social landlord or public body

    If you are not sure if you require a licence, contact us for advice.

    Why do I need a licence?

    HMO licensing is required by law to ensure that:

    • Landlords are fit and proper persons or employ agents who are
    • Adequate management is in place and tenants are protected
    • HMOs are well maintained and meet health and safety requirements
    • The Council can enforce standards in HMOs and take action if landlords do not co-operate

    Not only is it a criminal offence to operate a licensable HMO without a licence, your tenants can make a claim for a rent repayment order and claim back any rent paid during the period when the property should have been licensed but was not. It is also an offence if you have a licence but do not comply with the conditions of that licence.

    The details of licensed HMO premises appear on a publically available register which can be accessed here.

    What is the cost?

    The cost of the licence is £650 per property, and is usually valid for 5 years. If you have more than one HMO you will need a separate licence for each.

    Minimum standards

    Standards provide guidance to tenants and landlords on what to expect in HMOs. They help to ensure that HMOs meet a wide range of housing needs and provide good value for money. Many of these standards are expected in all HMOs whether they need a licence or not. If they are not met the Council can serve notice and use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to ensure that the HMO is brought up to standard.

    You can find more information relating to standards in the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 and in The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 .

    HMO Management Regulations

    The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 apply to both licensable and non-licensable HMOs.

    The regulations exist to ensure that HMO owners and managers control a range of health and safety risks that are greater in HMOs.

    The regulations include the following:

    • Fire safety - to ensure that equipment is maintained and that there is a safe route of escape
    • Repair, maintenance and cleanliness of communal areas including gardens
    • Repair and maintenance of fixtures, fittings and appliances in communal areas such as stairs, handrails, ventilation and heating appliances
    • Provision of services including water, drainage, electricity and gas
    • Provision and management of waste disposal facilities

    Badly managed HMOs put residents at risk, encourage anti-social behaviour and can have a negative impact on an entire neighbourhood. A landlord or owner, if convicted of breaching management regulations, could be fined for each separate offence and as such, incur substantial financial penalties.