Houses in multiple occupation
The definition of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property occupied by three or more people (including children) who form two or more households.
It includes shared houses, bedsits and some flats where the kitchen and/or bathrooms are shared. This includes houses rented by students.
A household may be:
- A single person
- A cohabiting couple
- Several members of the same family, all related by blood or marriage
As an example, a house occupied by a brother, sister and one other unrelated occupant would form two households; three unrelated persons would form three households.
They are mainly in the private rented sector and are typically occupied by young lower-income single people, including vulnerable and disadvantaged people. Physical and management standards are sometimes low. The risk of fire in an HMO can be greater than in a property occupied by a single family.
An HMO licence is required if all of the following apply:
- It has five or more occupiers comprising two or more separate households, regardless of number of storeys
- It is a house or self-contained flat but is not a purpose-built flat situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats
- Some or all of the occupants share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities
- At least one of the occupants pays rent (or the accommodation is linked to their employment)
- It is the occupiers' main residence
- It is not an exempt property such as a student hall of residence, or owned or managed by the council, a social landlord or the NHS
A licence once granted lasts for 5 years.
The government has produced a HMO guidance document covering the latest regulations.
Operating a licensable HMO without a licence is an offence which can be dealt with by a financial penalty or a conviction in court.
From 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing is no longer limited to HMOs that are three or more storeys high, but includes buildings with one or two storeys.
Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
In addition to the licensing regime, the Housing Act 2004 introduced the HHSRS to replace the former "fitness for human habitation" test under the Housing Act 1985. It applies to all residential accommodation including HMOs. It provides an assessment about a house's hazards to health and safety. It puts the emphasis on the occupant rather than the building.
There are 29 hazards to be assessed including:
- Freedom from dampness
- Excessive cold
- Falls on the level i.e. tripping hazards
- Entry by intruders
- Food safety
- Electrical safety
- Carbon monoxide
We can take enforcement action to ensure landlords eliminate and/or minimize these hazards. You can see more at: www.communities.gov.uk
HMO management regulations
As well as the licensing regime and HHSRS, management regulations apply to all HMOs. They impose duties on managers and tenants for general standards of repair, contact details, means of escape in case of fire, health and safety precautions, drainage and water supply, gas and electrical safety and refuse disposal. Failure to comply with a management regulation can result in a fine of up to £5000.
Register of HMO Licences
We maintain a public register of all HMO licences issued in the Borough.
HMO inspection programme
All known HMOs are inspected regulatory by regulatory services accompanied by a Fire Safety Officer from Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service if necessary. HMOs are identified in a number of ways, including information from local colleges and letting agents, the electoral roll and complaints. Landlords are present during most inspections and informed of any improvements needed to ensure accommodation provides a sound, well equipped and safe home for tenants.
HMO amenity and space standards
HMO management regulations published in 2006 and 2007 require an "adequate number of bathrooms, toilets and wash hand basins suitable for personal washing of persons sharing those facilities" and there "must be a kitchen, suitably located in relation to the living accommodation and of such layout and size and equipped with such facilities so as to adequately enable those sharing the facilities to store, prepare and cook food".
Fire safety guidance and protocol
In August 2008 LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) together with the CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and the Chief Fire Officers Association, developed a single piece of guidance on fire safety in some housing, including HMOs. This guidance provides specific recommendations for enforcers, landlords and tenants about standards needed to make properties safe from fire. In line with this, Fareham and Gosport Borough Councils and Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service signed a joint fire safety protocol in January 2009 to set up a framework for the way we work together. All new HMOs that come to the attention of any of the authorities will receive an initial joint visit from us and a Fire Safety Officer. We are the lead authority for all HMOs. Hampshire Fire & Rescue is the lead for properties with mixed commercial and associated residential accommodation.
From 6 April 2010 there is a likelihood that planning permission will be needed to change the use of a property to a house in multiple occupation.
If you would like advice or more information about any of these things, please contact us at GosportEHSupport@fareham.gov.uk or by telephoning 01329 824399.