House shares are an important and growing sector of the property industry, providing long and short term accommodation to professionals, friends or families. Most house shares are known as ‘house in multiple occupation’, or HMO – but what does this mean, exactly? Generally, an HMO is a property rented by at least three people who are not related from one household, who share communal facilities like a bathroom and kitchen. Many landlords rent their properties as HMOs without even realising it, but since a new reform came into effect on 1st October 2018 most HMOs in England and Wales now require a license, not just large properties. Previously, only properties of three floors or more were covered by the HMO license – the new rules mean that properties of any height where there are five or more sharers in two or more households require a license.
If you’ve never applied for a license before it can seem like a daunting experience, but it’s a more straightforward process than you might think:
- You must ensure the house is suitable for the number of occupants living there, and that the person who manages the house – either you or an agent – is considered ‘fit and proper’
- Conditions of your license include sending the council an updated gas safety certificate every year, installing and maintaining smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and providing safety certificates for electrical appliances when requested. Many councils also request a floor plan showing the size of the rooms
- You must renew your license before it runs out, and you need a separate license for each HMO you run. Each license is valid for a maximum of five years
- You’ll need to inform the council if you or your tenants make changes to your HMO, or if your tenants circumstances change, for example if they have a child
If you fail to ensure your property meets licensing conditions, you could receive an unlimited fine. Your tenants could also face losing their homes.
The easiest way to find out if you need an HMO license is to contact your local council.
One important thing to remember when applying for your license is that you will require a floor plan, accurately showing the size and layout of your property. Under the new proposals, landlords are prohibited from letting rooms that don’t provide adequate useable floor space for their occupants: 6.51sqm for single adults and 10.22sqm for two adults. Your HMO license will include a condition that states the maximum number of people who can sleep in each room – it’s worth noting that ceiling heights under 1.5m aren’t included in this calculation, so if your HMO has sloping ceilings it’s definitely worth enlisting the help of a professional floor planner.
Many landlords are under the impression that plans for HMO properties cost more due to the size of the buildings involved, but HMO-compliant plans don’t need to cost the Earth – our prices start from only £100 + VAT. We can advise you on HMO-compliant floor plans – contact us to find out more.
Applying for an HMO
RICS: New HMO rules come into effect in England on 1 October 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government: Houses in Multiple Occupation and residential property licensing reform
Shelter: advice for tenants living in HMO properties