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Houses in Multiple Occupation



The Housing Act 2004, which came into force on 6 April 2006, introduced radical reforms to private sector housing enforcement work, including a mandatory scheme to licence certain high risk houses in multiple occupation (HMO). The term HMO applies to a wide range of housing types. 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.

Definition of an HMO

The Housing Act 2004 defined HMOs as:

  • Any house or flat which is let to three or more tenants who form two households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
  • A house, which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self contained and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households
  • A building converted entirely into self contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short term tenancies.

Certain properties are exempt from the definition, including:

  • A two person house or flat share
  • A property occupied by a landlord (and their family) and two tenants
  • Buildings managed or controlled by a public body (such as the police or the NHS), a local authority or a registered social landlord
  • Buildings already regulated such as care homes, bail hostels etc.

HMO Licensing

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a mandatory scheme to licence specific types of HMOs for larger, higher risk HMOs of three or more storeys occupied by five or more tenants. It is an offence, with a possible fine of up to £20000, for any landlord to operate a licensable HMO without a licence. All HMOs must be inspected regularly by regulatory services to make sure adequate fire precautions and amenities are provided. The licence specifies the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO, including these mandatory conditions:

  • A valid current gas safety certificate which is renewed annually must be provided
  • Proof that all electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • Proof that all smoke alarms are correctly positioned and installed
  • Each occupier must have a written statement of the terms on which they occupy the property, such as a tenancy agreement.

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:

We can take enforcement action to ensure landlords eliminate and/or minimize these hazards. You can see more at:

HMO management regulations

As well as the licensing regime and HHSRS, management regulations PDF (57 KB) 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.

HMO inspection programme

All known HMOs are inspected at least annually by regulatory services accompanied by a Fire Safety Officer from Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service. 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".

You can see the amenity standards (133 KB) and space standards (51 KB) for HMOs in the Borough.


Fire safety guidance and protocol

In August 2008 LACORS   External Hyperlink(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.

Planning consent

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. 

How to complain about a house in multiple occupation

If you live in or near a house in multiple occupation and are concerned about health and safety standards or if you have a complaint about refuse or noise, please contact us at ehs@gosport.gov.uk or by phone on 02392 545609.

You may also find these websites helpful:


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