What is an HMO?
A house in multiple occupation is often referred to as being an HMO or HIMO.
HMOs normally fall into one of the following types:
- shared houses and flats
- lodging houses
- hostels and some bed-and-breakfast accommodation
- residential staff accommodation
- student halls of residence
- houses converted into self-contained flats
The legal definition of an HMO is contained in Part 7 Housing Act 2004. The definition is complex, but in essence an HMO will be a house or flat occupied by more than one household who share either a kitchen, bathroom or WC.
A building containing dwellings can itself be classed as an HMO. This will cover converted buildings containing living accommodation which is not entirely self contained flats, either a mix of self contained flats and other units sharing facilities, or flats, at least one of which have some facility outside the entrance to the flat, even if for exclusive use.
Buildings which are converted into entirely self contained flats (i.e. contain kitchen, bathroom and WC behind a front door) may also be classed as HMO's. These are often termed Section 257 HMO's. To satisfy the definition, the conversion work would not meet the standards under Building Regulations 1991 and less than two thirds of the flats would need to be owner-occupied.
Buildings containing purpose-built flats (provided they contain only single households) are not HMO's. However, they are subject to the Regulatory Reform Order for fire precautions (see below). For more information go to the Building Control section of this site.
All HMO's must contain 2 or more households. A household can be a family, a couple (including same sex couples) or a single person. People who are unrelated will generally be treated as separate households.
Properties occupied by only 2 people living in 2 households are exempted from the definition. Therefore an HMO must contain 3 or more occupants, including children or babies. There are a range of other exemptions, including properties occupied by a resident landlord, his family and not more than 2 unrelated persons. The exemptions are contained in Schedule 14 Housing Act 2004 and Schedule 1 of the Licensing & Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions)(England) Regulations 2006.
Owners wishing to create an HMO must check if they have the necessary planning permission. Any properties to accommodate 7 or more people are likely to require planning permission. However, from April 2012, any newly created HMO located in any ward within Leamington Spa (Milverton, Crown, Manor, Brunswick, Clarendon, Willes) and containing 3 or more unrelated persons will also need planning permission. Further information is available from the Planning webpage.
If you believe a property is being converted to an HMO or would like advice regarding standards you may contact Private Sector Housing on 01926 456824 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org . We encourage landlords to advise us when setting up any new HMO and we will be happy to give advice in meeting legal obligations . If you are concerned about the health & safety of occupants during the conversion process, you can request an inspection from Building Control using our web form, making sure you include any relevant information.
HMO Licensing commenced on 6th April 2006. Certain 'higher risk' HMO's are required to be licensed by the Council and failure to obtain a licence could lead to a fine of up to £20,000. Licensing was introduced as a means to regulate certain 'higher risk' HMO's. It is acknowledged that there is a significant risk of fire in HMOs compared to houses occupied by single families and those. Also, the standard of management in some HMO's has been found to be seriously deficient, such as to present a risk to the occupants.
Which HMO's need Licensing?
HMO's with 3 or more storeys and 5 or more occupants (and containing at least 2 households) will require a mandatory licence to operate, except for those converted to entirely self contained flats. Basements and attics accessed by a staircase will count as storeys. Many HMO's contain basements (or attics) which have not been converted to habitable accommodation. These will normally be counted for the purposes of calculating the number of storeys, even if for example the basement is only used for storage or where gas or electric meters, or water stop taps are located there. Mezzanine floors will also generally be counted as storeys unless they are used solely for a means of access between 2 adjoining floors. If you are uncertain if your HMO needs licensing, or even if it is an HMO at all, please contact Private Sector Housing for advice on 01926 456824 or e mail email@example.com
Has my Landlord applied for a Licence?
You can refer to the HMO licence applications (110kb, PDF) register to check whether a property has been the subject of an HMO Licence Application and whether it has been licensed. If you think that an HMO needs licensing but does not appear on the application list, we would like to hear from you. Landlords of licensable HMOs who fail to apply are in breach of Housing Act 2004 and are liable to a fine of up to £20,000. Any information you give us will be in the strictest confidence.
What are the Criteria for Licensing?
To qualify for a licence the property must be reasonably suitable for the number of occupants, have adequate facilities and fire precautions. Management arrangements must be satisfactory and the licence holder and manager must be a 'fit and proper' person.
How do I apply?
Landlords are responsible for submitting a licence application to the Council, and failure to do so, whilst operating a licensable HMO is an offence. Landlords who have not already done so are advised to contact the Private Sector Housing team to notify the fact that they operate a licensable HMO.
All of the application forms and accompanying information can be downloaded and printed from the list below. Where possible, these documents can be made available in other formats, including large print, cassette tape, CD and other languages. For more information, telephone (01926) 456824.
Alternatively licence application packs are also available on request by contacting Private Sector Housing.
How much will it cost?
Licence fees are banded and based upon the number of persons accommodated in the HMO. Details can be found here: HMO Licence Fees and Charges (16kb, PDF)
Will I receive an Inspection?
All HMO's will receive a licensing inspection. Inspections are not normally made until a duly made HMO licence application has been submitted. The inspection enables us to verify information contained within the application, and also to carry out a health and safety rating inspection to identify whether there are any hazards requiring action under Part 1 Housing Act 2004.
Landlords will normally be contacted to arrange mutually convenient times for licensing inspections, although it is possible that some unannounced visits will be made.
How will my application be determined?
Licences must either be granted, with conditions, or refused. If granted they will normally run for up to 5 years. A draft licence is issued, normally within 3-4 weeks of the inspection, giving applicants the opportunity to make any comments. A final version of the licence will normally be issued after a further 2 weeks . In the unusual case of a licence being refused, the Council will make an Interim Management Order which gives authority to take over the management of the HMO.
What conditions will be attached to my licence?
Licences will be issued with up to 3 schedules. Schedule 1 (59kb, PDF) will contain general conditions applicable to all licensable HMO's. Schedule 2 (general works) and Schedule 3 (fire precautions work) will specify any works identified from an inspection together with a timescale in which to complete them.
What if I don't bother to make an HMO licence application?
You run the risk of prosecution. The maximum fine is £20,000. your tenants may then be able to claim back rent they have paid whilst the HMO has been operating without a licence.
What if I don't want to continue operating a licensable HMO?Landlords wishing to cease operating a licensable HMO can apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice (TEN) if they take the appropriate steps to ensure the property will shortly cease to require a licence. A written notification or E Mail will be required giving proposals for the property. If granted, a TEN will be in force for 3 months. This can be renewed for a further 3 months, if there is a good case. Once this expires, the HMO must be licensed or the Council must issue an Interim Management Order should it remain licensable.
What happens when my licence expires?
We will write to you in advance to remind you and send you an application pack. It is important that you complete your renewal application and return it before your current licence expires. We will then assess your application and arrange to carry out an inspection.
Will non-licensable HMO's be inspected?
The Council undertakes both proactive and reactive inspections of HMO's. All inspections are based on risk assessment, which is used to calculate the frequency of future inspections. All HMOs are subject to Management Regulations which require them to be maintained in reasonable condition.
Statutory notices can be served to require properties to be brought up to standard. The Council prefers to work with landlords (and tenants) regarding any works which may be required and giving advice on management standards. However, in some cases it is necessary to use enforcement powers where landlords are uncooperative or unresponsive.
Inspections are normally carried out by an Environmental Health Officer/ Technical Officer. For initial inspections,a member of the Building Control team may be present. Inspections will focus on the following:-
- Means of Escape and other Fire Precautions
- Facilities for the Preparation and Cooking of Food
- Toilets, Baths, Showers and Wash Hand Basins
- Space Standards
- Management Standards
- Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) - see below.
How do I determine what fire precautions are required?
National fire safety guidance LACORS fire safety standards (2MB, PDF) was published in July 2008. Warwick District Council will have regard to this guidance whenever it undertakes an inspection.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2006 (often called the Fire Safety Order) came into force in October 2006. This legislation applies to the common parts of HMO's (excluding shared houses let on a single contract) and buildings containing flats, and is enforced by the Fire Service. The Council liaise with the Fire Service and enforce fire precautions in single dwellings and HMO's under Part 1 (HHSRS -see below) and Part 2 Housing Act 2004.
The Fire Safety Order requires all 'responsible' persons, i.e. landlords and managers, to undertake a fire risk assessment of HMO's, purpose built and converted flats (and virtually all non-domestic premises). In short, a fire risk assessment must consider all means of minimising the risk of fire, take any steps required (including the provision of appropriate fire precautions), and consider how persons can escape safely. Landlords will have to consider escape plans, fire notices and routine maintenance of fire precautions. They will need to keep records and may be asked to produce them to demonstrate that they are complying with the Order.
Local authorities have powers to apply for Additional Licensing where they believe that it is necessary to regulate HMO's which are not subject to Mandatory Licensing. This may, for example, be applied for properties which contain a large number of occupants although contain only 2 storeys. Warwick District Council does not at this time intend to apply Additional Licensing.
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
A new method of assessing standards in all dwellings including HMO's was introduced in Housing Act 2004. It took effect from 6th April 2006.This system is a risk assessment of all the main hazards one may expect in a dwelling and replaced the fitness standard for human habitation. The Council has powers and duties to take action depending upon the risks identified during an inspection.
We do not provide HMO grants or grants for landlords.
For more information relating to multiple occupancy homes, licenses and applications please contact:-
Private Sector Housing, Warwick District Council, PO Box 2176, Riverside House, Milverton Hill, Leamington Spa CV32 5QE
Telephone: (01926) 456824
FAX: 01926 456449
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