HMO Licences

What Landlords Need to Know
HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) is a term used to describe a type of property that is rented out to three or more tenants who form separate households and share common facilities like a bathroom and kitchen. Often referred to as a house share, these properties are becoming increasingly popular among people looking for affordable housing options and a social living environment. For landlords who want to rent out their property as an HMO, obtaining an HMO licence from the local council is most likely an important and necessary step.

Types of HMO licences

The licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) is an important aspect of ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of tenants. There are three main types of HMO licences: mandatory licences, selective licences, and additional licences.

Mandatory HMO Licences
Mandatory HMO licences are required for all large HMOs in England or Wales, as outlined in The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018. These regulations require landlords to obtain a mandatory licence for all HMOs that meet certain criteria, such as having five or more occupants from different households, unless the HMO falls under the category of a Section 257 HMO.

Mandatory licences ensures that HMOs are safe and suitable for tenants, and that landlords meet specific standards, such as providing smoke detectors, maintaining fire safety equipment and other HMO fire regulations. Other regulations that must be met for the grant of a mandatory licence, include the provision of adequate facilities for tenants, such as meeting minimum room sizes and compliance with building regulations. The aim of these regulations is to promote high standards in the private rented sector and to protect tenants from substandard living conditions.

Selective HMO Licences
Selective HMO licences are required for properties that do not meet the criteria for mandatory licences but still pose a risk to the health, safety, or well-being of the tenants. The local council has the discretion to determine which properties require a selective licence based on its own policies and guidelines, as outlined in the ‘Selective licensing in the private rented sector: a guide for local authorities (updated 20 June 2022)’.

Selective licensing in the private rented sector: a guide for local authorities (updated 20 June 2022)’ is a comprehensive guide for local authorities on the subject of selective licensing in the private rented sector. This guide provides information on the legal framework and requirements for implementing selective licensing, as well as practical guidance on how to design and implement a selective licencing scheme. It includes information on the eligibility criteria for selective licensing, the processes involved in designating an area for selective licensing, the procedures for applying for and renewing a selective licence, and the enforcement and monitoring of selective licensing.

The guide provides an overview of the reasons for implementing selective licensing and its benefits, including improving standards in the private rented sector, reducing anti-social behaviour, and protecting tenants’ health and safety. It also covers the responsibilities of landlords and tenants under selective licensing and the penalties for non-compliance.

Additional HMO Licences
Local authorities may introduce additional licensing schemes for HMOs if they believe that a significant proportion of HMOs are causing problems for the occupiers or members of the public and are being poorly managed. The decision to implement an additional licensing scheme must be consistent with the council’s housing strategy, part of a coordinated approach for dealing with homelessness, empty homes, and anti-social behaviour, and must be the only viable solution. The council must consult with everyone affected by the designation for a minimum of 10 weeks, as outlined in the Housing Act 2004.

Under Additional HMO Licensing, local authorities have the authority to specify which HMOs within their jurisdiction require a licence. Typically, they require a licence for any HMO with three or more occupants from separate households, which is in contrast to Mandatory HMO Licensing where a licence is required for HMOs with five or more occupants.

HMO Licence Cost

The cost of an HMO licence varies greatly depending on the size of the property and the local council that you are dealing with. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you understand the range of fees you might expect to pay.

For smaller HMOs, properties that have up to five tenants, the cost of an HMO licence is typically between £800 and £3,000. For large HMOs, properties with six or more tenants, the cost of an HMO licence is typically between £2,000 and £4,000. 

Once you have obtained an HMO licence, you will need to renew it every five years. The cost of renewing an HMO licence varies depending on the local council, but typically ranges from £250 to £1000.

It is important to note that the fees listed above are only estimates and should not be taken as gospel. Local councils have the right to charge what they wish for an HMO licence, depending on their own policies and regulations. To get an accurate estimate of the cost of an HMO licence in your area, it is best to contact your local council directly.

HMO Licence Check

Here are some ways to verify if a property has an HMO licence:

1. Contact the local council: The easiest and most straightforward way to check if a property has an HMO licence is to contact the local council where the property is located. They will have records of all HMO licences issued in the area and can verify if the property you are interested in has a valid licence.

2. Check the council’s website: Many local councils maintain an online database of HMO licences, which you can access to check if a particular property is licenced. This information is usually available to the public and can be easily searched through the council’s website.

3. Make a Freedom of Information request: If you are unable to find the information you need through the council’s website, you can make a Freedom of Information request to the local council. This request will require the council to provide you with the information you are seeking, including whether the property you are interested in has an HMO licence.

The HMO Application Process

The application process for an HMO licence varies between local councils, but there are some common steps that must be followed

  • Determine if your property requires a licence
  • Complete the HMO application form
  • Submit the form along with the required supporting documents and fee to the local council
  • The council will conduct an inspection of the property to ensure it meets the required standards
  • If the property passes the inspection, the council will issue the licence
  • Fines and Penalties for Non-Compliance

Fines and Penalties

It is a criminal offence to rent out an unlicensed HMO without the correct licence. Landlords who are found guilty of this offence can face substantial fines and penalties, including imprisonment. Additionally, if the council determines that the property does not meet the required standards, the landlord may be required to make improvements or face further fines.

HMOs That Do Not Require a Licence

Not all houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) require a licence. While it is important for landlords to understand the requirements for obtaining an HMO licence, it is also important to understand the circumstances under which a licence is not required. In some cases, the size and nature of the property or the number of tenants may exempt it from the licensing requirement.

The following are some common circumstances that may exempt an HMO from licensing:

  • Properties occupied by a single household: If the property is occupied by a single household, such as a family or a couple, it is not considered an HMO and does not require a licence.
  • Properties with fewer than three tenants: If the property is rented to fewer than three tenants who are not from the same household, it is not considered an HMO and does not require a licence.
  • Self-contained flats: If the property consists of self-contained flats, each with its own kitchen, bathroom, and living room, it is not considered an HMO and does not require a licence.

Other properties may be exempt from licencing under specific legislation, such as properties owned by certain religious organisations, or properties used as hostels for homeless people.

It is important to note that the exemptions listed above may vary between local councils, and landlords should consult with their local council to determine if their property is exempt from licensing.


By understanding the different types of licences available, the application process, and the potential fines and penalties for non-compliance, landlords can ensure that they are in compliance with the law and avoid any potential legal issues. For more information or if you have any questions, it is recommended that you seek advice from a professional or contact your local council.

Get in touch with us if you’re seeking a professional HMO Letting Agent in South London or if you need help with your HMO Conversion.

Carl Evans

Written By Carl Evans

Share this Article