Legal 101

What is the difference between a house in multiple occupation and a bedsit?

Lorraine DindiLorraine Dindi
Last updated on:
February 3, 2022
Published on:
November 9, 2021

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Classifying property and your obligations.

The difference between a bedsit and an HMO (house in multiple occupation) can be difficult to realise, especially when you realise the two forms of accommodation are not mutually exclusive i.e. a property can be both. By first understanding what a bedsit is, then exploring the category of housing known as HMOs, we will be able to tell the difference between the two and identity when they both appear in a property often called a “bedsit-type HMO”. 


What is a bedsit?

A bedsit is a form of accommodation made up of a single unit (typically one room) in a property with shared facilities. The single unit is a bedroom, which may even be en-suite or contain a kitchenette, and is usually rented out to individuals or couples. The occupant of the bedsit will share facilities such as a living room, kitchen, bathroom etc, with other tenants. These other tenants will likely also be occupying other bedsits in the same building.

What is a HMO?

On the other hand, an HMO is a legal category of housing defined in part 7 of the Housing Act 2004 and section 4 of the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018. There are about four categories of HMOs described in the legislation; one dealing with converted buildings, another one dealing with a converted block of flats, the other one dealing with instances where a local authority declares a property to be an HMO even if it doesn’t meet the requirements of the other categories, and finally the one dealing with the standard case of an HMO. 


The standard HMO, defined by what is sometimes called the “self-contained flat test” is essentially a residential property rented out by at least three people who are not from the same “household” and is not entirely made up of self-contained flats. A household is basically a family unit; it can be made up of a person living on their own, a couple who live together, or members of the same family. In an HMO, some or all of the tenants will share basic amenities such as a toilet, a bathroom or a kitchen with the others. 

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When is a bedsit part of a HMO?

As you can probably see, it is very likely for the respective rooms occupied by different tenants in an HMO to be bedsits. If so, then a bedsit would be the single unit that a tenant has exclusive possession of, and the HMO will be the whole residential property. This means that an HMO can comprise a number of separate bedsits. 


Let us imagine a property that is made up of two bedsits and one person lives in each. This is obviously not an HMO since the statutory requirement is that at least three people must be living in a property for it to count as an HMO. Now, let us say that both these people ask their respective partners to move into the bedsits with them, so we have two couples living in the property. Would this be an HMO? Yes, it would. What would this mean for the landlord now? Would their legal responsibilities be any different if they went from being the landlord of two bedsits to being the landlord of two bedsits and an HMO?


What are a landlord's responsibilities when letting a bedsit?

As discussed in detail here, there are certain obligations imposed by law on the landlord of a bedsit in addition to their standard landlord responsibilities. These range from the fact the bedsit must adhere to the size rules set by the local authority of the council it is located in, to there needing to be at least one smoke detector on the storey where the bedsit is located. If the bedsits are in a property which also classifies as an HMO, then the landlord will be under additional obligations, such as the need to obtain an HMO license in order to lawfully rent out the property. Read our article on the responsibilities of an HMO landlord.


The difference between bedsits and HMOs is an important one, especially for landlords, their agents, and tenants to know because it impacts their rights and duties. Legislate’s tenancy agreements understand this difference, thus empowering users to create and negotiate the right contract for their properties. Read our tutorial to learn how to create your tenancy agreements in minutes with Legislate.


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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.

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