Most houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are houses or flats which are occupied by people who do not form a single household and who share basic amenities such as bathroom, toilet and kitchen facilities. In addition certain buildings which have been converted into flats may also be HMOs.

Local authorities have specific powers to ensure HMOs have adequate fire precautions, are well-managed and are kept in good order. 

All HMOs must comply with the local authority’s adopted standards for HMOs and some will require a licence.

A property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if one of the following applies:

  • The property is a house or flat occupied as a main residence by three or more persons in two or more households (a household can be an individual, couple or family) where the toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared by the occupiers.
  • The building has been converted into self-contained flats where one or more of the flats has its toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities located outside the flat across a communal hall or landing.
  • The building was converted into self-contained flats before 1991 (or after 1991 without Building Regulation Approval), is occupied as a main residence by three or more persons living in two or more of the flats and less than two thirds of the flats are owner-occupied.

When does an HMO require a licence

An HMO will require a licence if it is occupied by five or more persons. This includes HMOs occupied by a live in landlord and four or more tenants.

There are a number of organisations which are exempt from licensing, including HMOs managed or controlled by:

  • Public sector bodies such as housing associations, government departments, the police or fire authority and the NHS.
  • Certain educational establishments.
  • Certain religious organisations.

Operating a licensable HMO without a licence is an offence which, if successfully prosecuted in court, can result in a fine.

For more information please see HMO advice for landlords

Apply for HMO licence


If you are a tenant living in an HMO please see our advice for HMO tenants.

Housing enforcement

Address: Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley, BR1 3UH

Telephone: 0300 303 8657

Fax: 020 8313 4450