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HMO meaning


House in Multiple Occupation

What is an HMO? In simple terms a "house in multiple occupation" is a flat or house share. However, although nearly all HMOs are flatshares, not all flatshares are HMOs! Think of HMO as more of a legal definition rather than purely descriptive.

HMOs and licensing

HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) is a term used to describe occupation that involves sharing part of the accommodation. It applies to both bedsit style housing and shared housing where a group of people who are not related share a house or flat. If you are a resident landlord (live in landlord) renting out a few rooms in your own house you also have an HMO. It is important to understand what an HMO is so that you can decide if you require additional fire safety measures or an HMO licence (if you have an HMO of three or more storeys with five or more people in it).

Download our full HMO guide

Do I have an HMO?

The underlying principal with HMOs is that there must be 'material sharing'. In summary:

  • A house split into bedsits where the tenant has exclusive use of their room but shares a kitchen or bathroom and WC;
  • A house or flat share with 3 or more tenants who are not related to each other;
  • Students living in shared accommodation where they have exclusive use of the whole house;
  • An owner-occupier with more than 2 lodgers who have a licence to occupy their accommodation;

Two unrelated people sharing is excluded from the term HMO.

The term can also refer to hostels for vulnerable individuals, bed and breakfast accommodation or hotels that are perhaps used for homeless people, women's refuges, nightshelters etc. These categories aren't relevant to most residential landlords.

Download our free guide

We've put together a free guide to HMOs and licensing, drawn up with the help of a local authority housing officer:

HMO licensing guide.