What is a HMO?

A House in Multiple Occupation is any residential property occupied by three or more people sharing facilities like a bathroom and/or kitchen who form two or more 'households'.

What is meant by the term 'Household'?

A household is either a single person or members of the same family who live together. A family includes people who are:

  • Married couples or couples living together as married (including people in same-sex relationships)
  • Relatives or half-relatives e.g. grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, nieces, cousins
  • Step-parents and step-children and half-relatives
  • Foster parents and foster children

Some domestic staff would be included if they are living in the house as a result of the terms of their contract e.g. an adult carer and up to three people receiving care are a single household.

HMO Licence for a shared home

Landlord must get a licence from the council if the HMO:

  • has 5 or more unrelated people live in it
  • has 2 or more separate households living there

Some councils also require other HMOs to be licensed. Some councils require all private landlords to get a licence.

HMOs don't need to be licensed if they are managed or owned by a housing association or co-operative, a council, a health service or a police or fire authority. Licences usually last for 5 years but some councils grant them for shorter periods. When deciding whether to issue or renew a licence, the council checks that:

  • the property meets an acceptable standard. For example, it looks at whether the property is large enough for the occupants and if it is well managed
  • the landlord is a 'fit and proper' person
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Types of HMO Licensing

Mandatory Licensing

This is a licensing scheme that applies nationwide and is aimed at larger HMOs, where there are five or more tenants/occupants from two or more households. This scheme came into force in 2006 and will include houses or flats which do not have all amenities behind a lockable front door.

Additional Licensing

Subject to local consultations, Local Councils can impose additional HMO schemes. This applies to smaller HMOs, where the number of storeys is irrelevant and the property is occupied by three or more tenants/occupants from two or more households. In addition, property owners managing common parts to a building which houses self-contained (leasehold) flats could be subject to an additional licence for the common parts.

Selective Licensing

At the discretion of the Local Council, specific properties, or areas, roads or simply properties with a minimum number of occupants may require a licence.


Designing an HMO can be a complex process, our experts will guide you through this from a simple call to more complex drawing of plans.

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Ensuring all the elements are put together to conform to legislation forming an application that will be accepted by the local authority

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We liaise with the Local Authority throughout the entire process, ensuring that your property licensing experience is as hassle-free as possible.

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Housing Health and Safety Rating System

When carrying out inspections of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), the council's housing enforcement team use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess conditions within the property.

My HMO needs a licence, what do I do next?

We can do this for you. We will fill out the application and send it to the Council. They will inspect your property and then outline what remedial work or changes need to be made for it to pass the HMO test. We have done a lot of applications and can handle the process quite smoothly.

Will I automatically get an HMO licence?

No, and that is why HMOs are so controversial, the Council has the power to veto your application and restrict the number of HMOs in a particular area. The legislation is driven by residents of East Reading being unhappy at high volumes of student households in particular roads around the University of Reading.

What do you need to gain a licence?

Reading Borough Council website's lists these conditions as the standards for an HMO. We can get estimates for the work required so you know the total cost of the HMO before committing to it. Some of the main items include:

  • An adequate means of space heating must be provided in each letting and in bathrooms, whether shared or not
  • Kitchens and bathrooms must be adequately ventilated, including extractor fans in kitchens
  • Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets must be of adequate size and layout and be suitably located in the HMO in relation to the lettings
  • All baths, showers, wash hand basins and sinks must be fitted with taps supplying cold water and a constant supply of hot water
  • For up to 4 occupiers, there must be at least one bathroom and toilet (which can be in the bathroom)
  • For five or more occupiers, there must be at least one bathroom for every 5 sharers, and a separate toilet for every 5 sharers
  • Adequate size and layout kitchen for the number of sharers, containing sinks with draining boards, cooking equipment, worktops, storage cupboards, for food and crockery and utensils, fridge/freezers (combined or separate), and electrical sockets
  • Adequate refuse disposal facilities
  • Adequate fire precautions including fire doors and fire blankets as appropriate

Standards of Amenities

All HMOs must comply with the council's standards of amenities. The standards set out the basic requirements for size, heating, facilities, etc

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