South Cambridgeshire Logo
My South Cambs:
Sign in or register
Environmental Crime pollution.svg

Houses in Multiple Occupation legislative overview

Please note this document is for Houses in Multiple Occupation or HMO's which fall outside of the licensable requirements under the Housing Act 2004. Any property which is 3 or more storeys with 5 or more occupants should contact our department to discuss the licensing process. The Environmental Health and Licensing contact number is 01954 713 000.

How is a House in Multiple Occupation defined?

You can find the definition of a “House in Multiple Occupation” (HMO) within section 254 and 257 of the Housing Act 2004. In summary a HMO is a house, or flat if:

  • 3 or more tenants are occupying the property who form 2 or more households and who share one of the basic amenities such as cooking facilities a bathroom or a w/c.

  • The property is occupied by more than 3 tenants forming 2 or more households” of which the building has been converted but is not entirely self-contained flats (whether some of the amenities are shared).

  • The building is converted into self-contained flats, but does not comply with the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations and at least a third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

In addition to the above it must be “occupied” by more than one household in one of the following scenarios:

  • It must be their only or main residence: or
  • As a refuge by people escaping domestic violence; or
  • During term time by students: or
  • For any other purpose that is prescribed in regulations.

What defines a household?

Essentially a household is defined as a family (this includes single persons and couples) and their relatives, foster children and any associated domestic staff. It does not include a group of friends who are house sharing, in that scenario the property will be classed as a HMO.

What are the various types of HMO?

Bedsits of accommodation comprising separate lettings

Houses which are occupied as individual rooms where there is some exclusive occupation and some sharing of a shared kitchen or bathroom and also a communal living room may be provided for people who have no alternate permanent place of residence and each occupant of the household lives independently of all the other occupants.

Shared houses

A shared house will normally be occupied by members of a defined social group, e.g. students or a group of adult friends. In this scenario the occupiers will each have their own bedroom.

Student halls of residence or similar establishments

There will be some degree of shared facilities where occupation would normally be by people whose accommodation is ancillary to their employment or education and where it is made available through their employer or in connection with their educational provider.

Hostels, guesthouses and bed and breakfast

These are normally occupied by people with no other permanent place of residence as opposed to hotels which provide temporary accommodation. This  type of HMO would include premises used by the Local Authorities for temporary accommodation for example housing people who would otherwise be homeless. It would also include hotels used for similar purposes and even a mixture of homeless households and visitors.

Residential care homes and similar establishments

These premises are subject to regulation and inspection by the Commission for Social Care Inspection and in consultation with the fire authority and the Local Authority in regard to fire safety precautions.  Where no personal care is provided the requirements will be similar to a bedsit HMO.

Self-contained flats

These are houses or other buildings which either by erection or conversion comprise dwellings which are self-contained and where access is through a single front door from a common area. There is no sharing of facilities. Space and layout of self-contained flats should be addressed via the Planning and Building Control process, however many houses in this category will be occupied by long-term leaseholders and it is not intended to enforce discretionary standards in this scenario.  There is only one exception and this is to ensure means of escape is adequate in case of fire as all occupiers must ensure they do not jeopardise the safety of their neighbours.

HMOs and the planning and building control process

There is now a definition of a HMO which was introduced in 2010 under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). The definition was introduced in order to reflect the Housing Act 2004 HMO definition.  The result is that a material change of use from a dwelling house which falls within use class C3, to a new class for HMOs (C4) requires planning permissions.

  • Any property which is intended to be occupied by 7 or more people as an HMO will require a change of use.

  • If you are intending to provide accommodation as a large HMO, you are encouraged to consult with the Planning and Building Control departments as soon as possible to seek advice.

  • The Environmental Health Team should also be consulted to ensure they are happy that the property is suitable to be occupied as an HMO and to advise on all requirements.

  • If you do not have the required permissions in place, the Council’s Planning Enforcement section may take action against you and can require you to return the property back to a single occupancy house.

What are the amenity requirements in a HMO?

  • If you wish to let your property as an HMO you will need to comply with the Councils amenity and space standards. These requirements are in place to ensure HMOs do not become overcrowded and to ensure the facilities available are suitable for the number of occupants. These amenity provisions are the recommended minimum requirement for all Houses in Multiple Occupation, whether the building requires a mandatory licence or not. The level of amenity provision depends on the number of occupiers sharing the accommodation and the type of accommodation e.g shared house or bedsit accommodation. The facilities should be located not more than one floor distant from the people who use them, (unless there is a shared or common dining area available) and they should be in a convenient position to enable occupiers to use them comfortably.

  • Kitchen or kitchen diner facilities must be positioned to ensure they can be safely used. For example, the cooker must not be located adjacent to or behind the kitchen door, the work surface must be not be chipped or pitted and  the floor must be laid and maintained to prevent slips, trips and falls.  Guidance for landlords and property related professionals has been published and is available on the government website: Housing Health & Safety Rating System.