Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

What is a House in Multiple Occupation?

A House in Multiple Occupation HMO (sometimes called a ‘house share’) is a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 household and who share basic amenities, such as the bathroom and kitchen.

Your property will be classed as an HMO, if:

  • It’s rented to 3 or more people who form more than 1 household
  • Tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities

Contract-holders (Tenants) classified as a household

  • Co-habiting couples
  • Blood-related, or foster families
  • Carers and domestic staff


Purpose built flats would not require an HMO license; however, buildings converted entirely into self-contained flats would be defined as an HMO if they meet all the following criteria:

  • The conversion did not meet the 1991 Building Regulations
  • More than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies/less than two-thirds of the flats are owner occupied
  • The building is occupied by more than 2 people

To check if your property requires an HMO license, please contact the Housing Safety and Environmental Protection Team on

Why do some HMOs require licensing?

Larger HMOs, such as bedsits and shared houses, often have poorer physical and management standards than other privately rented properties.  As HMOs are the only housing option for many people, the Government recognises that it is vital that they are properly regulated.

Licensing is intended to make sure that:

  • Landlords of HMOs are fit and proper people, or employ managers who are
  • Each HMO is suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the license
  • The standard of management of the HMO is adequate
  • High risk HMOs can be identified and targeted for improvement

Where landlords refuse to meet these criteria the council can intervene and manage the property so that:

  • Vulnerable tenants can be protected
  • HMOs are not overcrowded
  • Councils can identify and support landlords, especially with regeneration and tackling antisocial behaviour

Do all HMOs have to be licensed?

No.  Under the Housing Act 2004 there are three types of licensing:

Mandatory (required by law)

Licensing of HMOs for properties that are:

  • Three or more storeys high
  • Have five or more people in more than one household
  • Share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities

Additional licensing of HMOs

  • A discretionary power that councils may decide to apply to a particular type of HMO, for example to include in an existing registration scheme.

Selective licensing of other residential accommodation

  • Properties that are not subject to HMO licensing could be covered under a selective licensing scheme.  This is where the council may declare that certain areas, for example, where there is low demand for housing and/or antisocial behaviour, are appropriate for selective licensing.  This licensing would cover all forms of private rented housing, including HMOs.

How does licensing work?

Anyone who owns or manages an HMO that must be licensed has to apply to the council for a licence. The council must give a licence if it is satisfied that:

  • The HMO is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence
  • The proposed licence holder is a fit and proper person
  • The proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • The proposed manager, if there is one, is a ‘fit and proper person’
  • The proposed management arrangements are satisfactory
  • The person involved in the management of the HMO is competent
  • The financial structures for the management are suitable

Planning Permission

If the property does not currently have planning permission to operate as a House in Multiple Occupation, you have a legal requirement to apply for planning permission if any of the below points apply:

  • If the property use is changing from a single household to an HMO and it will be occupied by between 3-6 individuals (even if it has operated as an HMO in the past)
  • If the property will be occupied by 7 or more persons

Planning consent operates independently from HMO licensing. Obtaining Planning Consent to operate an HMO does not guarantee an HMO licence will be granted and the granting of an HMO licence does not provide any certainty that Planning Consent will be given.

For further information or advice in respect of this requirement, please contact Planning Enforcement on

Appeal process

Any applicant who is refused a licence or wishes to appeal against conditions attached to their licence, can appeal to the  Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) Wales; however, please contact us in the first instance.

Fines and penalties

You can be fined up to £20,000 for renting out an unlicensed HMO.

Last Modified: 20/03/2024
For more information contact:

Housing Safety and Environmental Protection Team

Tel: 01633 647622


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