Legal 101

When multiple occupants means multiple obligations

Amber AkhtarAmber Akhtar
Last updated on:
February 3, 2022
Published on:
November 9, 2021

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Landlords: Your extra responsibilities when letting a HMO. 

As a landlord, you have extra responsibilities if the house you are renting out is a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Failure to meet these obligations may result in a fine. Read on to ensure you are aware of your obligations as a landlord with a HMO property. 

What is a HMO? 

A HMO is a property rented out by three or more people forming more than one household. A household is either a single person or members of the same family living together. It can include people who are married, in same-sex relationships, relatives or half-relatives and step-parents or step-children. For example, four unrelated people would make up four households and a property with two couples would make up two households. The second requirement for a HMO is some or all tenants share basic amenities such as a toilet, a bathroom or a kitchen with other tenants. 

How do I create a HMO? 

If you want to rent out your property as a HMO you must contact your local council to see whether you need a license or not as the requirements vary between councils. The license ensures the property is managed properly and meets the required safety standards. It is crucial you have a license if you’re renting out a large HMO. A large HMO is where five or more tenants who are not from the same household live together, at least one or more tenants share some of the facilities (toilet, bathroom or kitchen) and at least one of them pays rent (or their employer pays the rent).   

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What additional responsibilities are imposed on a HMO landlord?

Alongside the standard legal responsibilities you have as a landlord, there are additional responsibilities when it comes to a HMO:

  • You must maintain the cleanliness and repair of the communal areas and facilities;
  • Carry out annual gas safety checks and send the council an updated gas safety certificate each year, a copy of which must be displayed in the common parts of the property;
  • Ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room in the house which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel combustion appliance;
  • Ensure that a smoke alarm is installed on each storey of the house on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation;
  • Ensure proper fire safety measures are in place, including working smoke alarms and a heat detector in kitchens;
  • Complete a fire risk assessment (further information can be obtained from your local council to ensure this is done properly);
  • An electrical inspection must be carried out every five years by a registered electrician;
  • You must check and maintain electrical fixtures and fittings such as sockets or light fittings - over the course of the tenancy and provide safety certificates for all electrical appliances when requested;
  • You must provide adequate bins for the storage of refuse, having regard to the disposal services provided by the local authority;
  • Ensure the property is not overcrowded;
  • Ensure there are accessible fire escape routes which are maintained clear of obstructions, store and potential sources of ignition; and,
  • Display or provide your, your agent or your manager’s contact information to the tenant.

The kitchen must also be equipped with the following equipment:

  • Sinks with draining boards;
  • An adequate supply of cold and constant hot water to each sink supplied;
  • Installations or equipment for the cooking of food;
  • Electrical sockets;
  • Worktops for the preparation of food;
  • Cupboards for the storage of food or kitchen and cooking utensils;
  • Refrigerators with an adequate freezer compartment;
  • Appropriate refuse disposal facilities; and,
  • Appropriate extractor fans, fire blankets and fire doors.

The HMO Licence also imposes a minimum floor area requirement, you must ensure that the floor area of any room used as sleeping accommodation in the HMO is not less than:

  • 4.64 square meters for one person aged under 10 years
  • 6.51 square meters for one person aged over 10 years
  • 10.22 square meters for two people aged over 10 years

You must notify your local council of any room in the HMO which has a floor area of less than 4.64 square meters and ensure that any room with a floor area of less than 4.64 square meters is not used as sleeping accommodation. 

There are additional floor area requirements which apply to other rooms within the HMO as per the licence requirements, you can contact your local council for further information as individual councils set the terms of the licence. 

If you are a landlord of a HMO which should be licensed but isn’t, you may be committing a criminal offence which may result in a fine, you being ordered to repay up to 12 months’ rent, or where tenant’s receive housing benefit you may be ordered to repay 12 months’ housing benefit to the council. In addition, if the HMO is not adequately licensed you may not be able to evict tenants under a section 21 notice in the case of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) as it will not be valid where a HMO isn’t licensed as it should be. 

How do I create a HMO tenancy agreement?

Legislate’s AST agreements understand the differences between HMOs, bedsits and sole occupancy agreements. Users on Legislate are invited to create and negotiate contracts on their own terms, whilst being confident that their agreements are sensible and up to date. Read our tutorial to learn how to create your HMO tenancy agreement in minutes with Legislate. Don't download a HMO template, create a HMO with Legislate today.

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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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