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Changes to the Licensing of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

We spoke to a Partner with the law firm John Gaunt & Partners about changes to the licensing of HMOs and how this may impact upon pubs with accommodation occupied by staff or let to third parties.

What is an HMO?

The law which defines Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) changed in October last year (2018).

Prior to the change in the law, an HMO was defined as a property rented out to 5 or more individuals (not from the same family) who occupied a property of 3 or more storeys and shared common facilities such as kitchen, bathroom or other living areas.

This meant that many properties, including many pubs, were outside the regime as they consisted of less than 3 storeys. 

In October 2018 the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Regulations came into force and changed the definition of an HMO.


An HMO is now defined as any rented property let to at least 3 people not from the same household. The number of storeys is now irrelevant. As a consequence of the changes many pubs, which were previously outside the regime, are now subject to the HMO licensing regulations as they apply in their local area. 


By going to the website you can simply put in the property’s post code and access the relevant information for your local authority. 


Do all HMOs require a licence?

Local Authorities can choose whether they wish to licence ‘small HMOs’ (more than 3 but less than 5 occupiers) and licensees should consult their Local Authority to establish whether they are required to obtain a licence. This will vary across the country from local authority area to local authority area. 

All large HMOs must be licenced in England and Wales.


What constitutes a large HMO?

A large HMO fulfils all of the following criteria:

·         it is shared by 5 or more people who form more than 1 household

·         some or all of the occupants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities

·         at least 1 occupant pays rent regardless of whether this is by direct deduction from wages or by means of traditional rent payments. It would also include any pub business that provides staff with free accommodation as part of their job role as this is considered a benefit of employment.


What happens if you are not licenced properly?

You must have a separate HMO licence for each property you run. You could get an unlimited fine for renting out an unlicensed HMO.


What criteria do you need to meet to secure a licence?

The criteria to obtain an HMO licence are:

·         the house is suitable for the number of occupants (this depends on its size and facilities)

·         the manager of the house - you or an agent – has to be a ‘fit and proper’ person, for example a criminal record or breaches of property laws or codes of practice may be grounds to refuse your licence.


You must also:

·         send the council an updated gas safety certificate every year

·         install and maintain smoke alarms

·         provide safety certificates for all electrical appliances when requested.

The Local Authority may add other conditions to your licence, for example improving the standard of your facilities. They will let you know when you apply.


You can call the free BII Licensing Helpline any time about this or any other licensing issue on: 0330 058 3878.



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