What is an HMO?
A House in Multiple Occupation is often referred to as being an HMO and HMO's 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) that is occupied by 3 or more people, in 2 or more households who share either, a kitchen, bathroom or WC. A household can be a family, a couple (including same sex couples) or a single person. Therefore 3 people who are unrelated are treated as 3 separate households.
Properties occupied by only 2 people living in 2 households are exempt from the definition. An HMO must contain 3 or more occupants, (this includes children and babies). There is a range of other exemptions, including properties occupied by a resident landlord, his family, and not more than 2 unrelated persons. All 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.
A building containing individual dwellings can itself be classed as an HMO. This will cover buildings that have been converted and contain living accommodation which is not entirely self contained flats, and could be 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 it is just for the exclusive use of that flat.
Buildings that have been 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 referred to as section 257 (Housing Act 2004) 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.
Owners wishing to create an HMO must check if they have or need, the necessary planning permission. Any properties to accommodate more than 6 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 email@example.com . We encourage landlords to advise us when setting up a new HMO and we can offer advice to enable them to meet their 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.
Mandatory HMO Licensing commenced on 6th April 2006 and certain 'higher risk' HMO's are required to be licensed by the Council, failure to obtain a licence could lead to a fine of up to £20,000. HMO Licensing was introduced as a means to regulate these 'higher risk' HMO's. It’s acknowledged there is a significant risk of fire in these HMOs compared to houses which are occupied by single families. Warwick District Council (WDC) has also discovered that the standard of management in some existing HMO's is found to be seriously deficient and as such presents a risk to the occupants. This could be a breach of The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, also The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 and is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 for each breach of the regulations.
Which HMO's must be Licensed?
Any HMO with 3 or more storeys, and 5 or more occupants (containing at least 2 households) and sharing some amenities such as bathroom/kitchen/wc, will require a mandatory licence to operate, except for those converted to entirely self-contained flats. It’s very rare but certain properties which have been converted and don’t share amenities may need to be licensed.Typically, these involve a room/rooms located directly off a common landing area meaning they are not entirely self-contained. Basements and attics that can be accessed by the occupants via 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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/or manager must be a 'fit and proper' person, as defined in section 66 of the Housing Act 2004.
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 punishable by a fine up to £20,000. 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), payments can be made by cheque or online /WDC/Housing/Private+housing/Multiple+occupancy+homes/HMO+payments.htm
Will I receive an Inspection?
Inspections are not normally made until a fully completed HMO licence application (with all current certificates) has been submitted. The inspection enables us to verify the information contained within the application, and to carry out a health and safety rating inspection to determine whether there are any hazards requiring action under Part 1 Housing Act 2004. HMO's which are licensed will receive a licensing inspection during the life of the licence, which is normally 5 years.
Landlords/managers/agents will be contacted to arrange a convenient time and date for licensing inspections, although it is possible that some unannounced visits will be made during the life of the licence.
How will my application be determined?
Licences (with conditions) must either be granted, or refused. If granted they will normally run for up to 5 years. A draft licence is issued giving applicants the opportunity to make representations/comments before the final licence is served. In the unusual case of a licence being refused, the Council may decide to 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 maybe issued with up to 3 schedules. Schedule 1 (59kb, PDF) will contain the mandatory and general conditions applicable to all licensable HMO's. Schedule 2 will be for specific general works, and Schedule 3 is for specific fire precautions and these will specify any works identified from the inspection together with a timescale in which to they must be completed.
What if I don't bother to make an HMO licence application?
You will face prosecution and if found guilty face a maximum fine is £20,000. Your tenants will also have the right to claim back rent they have paid for the previous 12 months 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 must apply for the licence to be either revoked or apply for a temporary exemption notice (TEN). They should take the appropriate steps to ensure the property will shortly cease to require a licence and 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 a simpler version of the application pack, see application form 7. Form 7 is only applicable providing nothing has changed such as manager/agent/owner, and there have been no structural changes within the property. It is important for you to 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. It is not up to the Council to remind you of your legal obligation to renew your HMO Licence.
Non Licensable HMO's
The Council regularly undertakes proactive and reactive inspections of non-licensable HMO's. All inspections are based on risk assessment, which is used to calculate the frequency of future inspections. All HMOs (including Licensed HMO’s) are subject to management regulations, see paragraph 2 “What is An HMO” these require the properties to be maintained in reasonable condition.
Statutory notices can be served to require properties to be brought up to standard. Warwick District Council prefer to work with landlords/agents (and tenants) regarding any works which may be required also giving advice on management standards. However, in some cases it is necessary to use enforcement powers where landlords are uncooperative or unresponsive or the risk is high.
Inspections will be carried out by a Private Sector Housing Officer and sometimes they will be accompanied by a member of the Building Control team. The inspection will focus on the following:-
- Means of Escape and other Fire Precautions
- Facilities for the Preparation and Cooking of Food
- Amenities such as number of toilets/baths/showers and Wash Hand Basins
- Space Standards (i.e. room sizes)
- Management Standards (common areas)
- Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) - see below.
How do I determine what fire precautions are required?
The 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 and requires fire precautions/safety measures.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (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 Warwickshire Fire and Safety Rescue Service and can 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 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.
Warwick District Council does not provide HMO grants for landlords.
For more information relating to multiple occupancy homes, licenses and applications please contact:-
Private Sector Housing, Warwick District Council, Riverside House, Milverton Hill, Leamington Spa CV32 5QE
Telephone: (01926) 456824
FAX: 01926 456449
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