HMO Rules

An Overview

An HMO, or House in Multiple Occupation, refers to a property occupied by three or more tenants who are not part of the household. A household refers to a group of people living together as one unit and sharing living spaces and expenses. This term is often used to determine eligibility to live in a property and is based on familial or relationship ties. A family living together is considered a single household, as is a couple living together. House mates who aren’t related aren’t considered to be a single household.

HMOs are common in many UK cities and are regulated by local councils to ensure the safety and wellbeing of tenants. Read this article entitled What is a HMO to find out more about HMOs and why they are so popular.

This article delves into the different HMO rules and regulations that HMO landlords and HMO investors need to be aware of to ensure they provide safe, high-quality living conditions for their tenants. From planning permission requirements to minimum room sizes, and from licensing obligations to management responsibilities, we explain the legal and practical requirements that landlords and tenants must adhere to.

It is crucial to understand these regulations, as failure to comply can result in substantial fines, penalties, and even imprisonment. By staying up-to-date with the latest HMO rules and regulations, landlords can ensure they manage their properties effectively and provide a safe and healthy living environment for their tenants.

HMO Rules for Planning Permission

It’s crucial for HMO investors and landlords to know the properties types known as Class C3 and C4, as these classifications determine the requirements for planning permission and the landlord’s legal obligations. Class C3 refers to dwelling houses, while Class C4 refers to HMOs. The ability to convert a Class C3 property into a Class C4 often relies on permitted development rights, which allow certain building work changes to a property without planning permission within specific limits and conditions.

For HMOs with 6 or fewer occupants, planning permission is not necessary as long as the property is not in a conservation area, national park, or listed building of special interest and has not had its permitted development rights removed. However, Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 may restrict or remove permitted development rights in certain HMOs and therefore a landlord would require planning permission to convert a C3 property to C4. Property owners must check with their local authority to determine if Article 4 applies to their property. Read more about HMO Planning Permission.

HMO Rules for Licencing

In England and Wales, the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) plays a critical role in ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of tenants. There are three main types of HMO licences: mandatory, selective, and additional.

Mandatory HMO licences are required for all HMOs let to 5 people or more in England or Wales and must be obtained by landlords regardless of the size of the property. The regulations for mandatory licensing are outlined in The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018, which requires landlords to provide smoke detectors and maintain fire safety equipment, among other things. The goal is to promote high standards in the private rented sector and protect tenants from substandard living conditions.

Additional HMO licences may be introduced by local authorities if they believe that a significant proportion of HMOs are poorly managed and causing problems for tenants or the public. The decision must be consistent with the council’s housing strategy and must be the only viable solution. The council must consult with those affected before implementing an additional licensing scheme.

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 tenants. The local council decides which properties require a selective licence based on its policies and guidelines, outlined in the “Selective licensing in the private rented sector: a guide for local authorities.” This offers insights into the legal structure and conditions for obtaining selective licensing, the criteria for being eligible, the steps involved in submitting an application, and the consequences for failing to adhere to the regulations.

It is a criminal offence to rent out an HMO without the correct licence, and landlords can face substantial fines, penalties, and even imprisonment. Read more about HMO Licence Requirements.

HMO Rules for Minimum Room Sizes

Minimum Bedroom Size:
The regulations state that a single-occupancy bedroom for someone over 10 must be at least 6.51 sqm, and for two people over 10, the room must be 10.22 sqm. However, local authorities may have more stringent requirements, which take into account the specific needs of their area.

Minimum Kitchen Size:
The Minimum Amenities Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation 2020 provides guidelines for minimum kitchen size in HMOs. The standards require the kitchen to be 7 sqm per every 5 residents. Local authorities may have their own requirements, which vary depending on the number of residents in the HMO. For example, Southwark Council requires 8.5 sqm for 4 residents and adds 1 sqm for each additional person. Meanwhile, Merton Council requires 2 sqm per person or more.

Minimum Living Room Size:
The Minimum Amenities Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation 2020 sets the minimum living room size in HMOs as 11 sqm per every 5 residents. Local authorities may have their own specific requirements based on the number of residents. For example, Southwark Council requires 11 sqm for 4-6 residents and adds 1 sqm for each additional person. Hammersmith and Fulham Council requires 8.5 sqm for 3-4 residents and 11 sqm for 5-9 residents. A general rule of thumb is 2 sqm per person.

Minimum Kitchen Diner Size:
When there is no living room and bedrooms are 6.51 sqm in an HMO, the minimum kitchen diner size should be 11 sqm for 5 people or less according to the Minimum Amenities Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation 2020. This size should provide enough space for cooking, eating, and socialising.

Read more about Minimum Room Sizes in HMOs.

HMO Rules for Management

As a manager of an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation), it is your duty to ensure the safety and well-being of your tenants. Firstly, you must provide each household with your name, address and telephone contact number, and display this information prominently in the HMO.

Regarding safety measures, you must keep all fire escape routes free from obstruction and in good order, maintain fire fighting equipment and fire alarms, and display notices indicating the fire escape routes. You must also take measures to protect tenants from injury and ensure any unsafe roof or balcony is made safe or inaccessible. Windows with sills at floor level must also be equipped with bars or other safeguards.

It is also your duty to maintain the water supply and drainage system in good, clean, and working condition. Drinking water storage tanks, cisterns or similar receptacles must be kept in good, clean and working condition, and water fittings must be protected from frost damage. You must not cause or permit the water or drainage supply to be interrupted.

You must get a gas safety certificate yearly and inspect and test the fixed electrical installation every five years. You must not cause the gas or electricity supply to be interrupted.

Maintaining common parts, fixtures, fittings, and appliances is also a key responsibility. This includes ensuring all common parts are in good and clean decorative repair, safe and working condition, and reasonably clear from obstruction. Handrails and bannisters must be kept in good repair, and all gas appliances, electrical installations, and water heating appliances must be safe and in good working order. Staircases, landings, halls, passages, and means of escape must be well-lit and free from obstructions.

You must also ensure the living accommodation and furniture are in clean and good condition, and that the internal structure of the living accommodation is in good repair.

Finally, you must provide enough bins or other suitable containers for each household to store their refuse and litter, and make arrangements for disposal.

It is important to take these HMO management rules seriously as they serve to ensure the health and safety of the tenants, and a failure to comply with these regulations can result in serious consequences, such as fines, legal action and a tarnished reputation. Furthermore, a well-maintained and safe HMO not only provides a better living environment for the tenants, but it also attracts and retains tenants, increases rental income, creates a positive image for the surrounding area and contributes to the overall quality of life for the residents.

As an HMO landlord, you have a legal obligation to protect your tenants’ health and safety and to provide safe and healthy living conditions. By adhering to these regulations, you not only protect your tenants, but also contribute to a better community and maintain a positive reputation as a responsible landlord.

Read more about HMO Management Regulations.

HMO Rules for Tenants

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, Clause 10 outlines specific responsibilities for tenants living in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).

For example, tenants must conduct themselves in a manner that does not obstruct the HMO manager’s duties, and must allow the manager to enter their living space for related tasks, provide required information, take steps to avoid damaging property, store and dispose of litter as directed, and follow fire safety instructions.

The landlord must provide tenants with a tenancy agreement, energy performance certificate, deposit protection information, current gas safety certificate, How to Rent Guide, electrical installation condition report, and gas safety record.

Read more about HMO House Rules for Tenants.


HMO rules and regulations are complex and can change regularly. As a landlord or investor of an HMO property, it is important to be aware of all the rules and regulations. Failure to comply with these rules can result in substantial fines, penalties, and even imprisonment. For those who are not comfortable navigating these rules, it is advisable to appoint a specialist HMO Manager who can ensure compliance and manage the property effectively. By staying up-to-date with the latest HMO rules and regulations, landlords can ensure they provide safe, high-quality living conditions for their tenants.

If you need HMO management or HMO lettings in South London, or if you require HMO advice, feel free to reach out to us.

Carl Evans

Written By Carl Evans

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