Will taking in a lodger turn my home into an HMO?


If you're renting out more than one room in your house to lodgers it's important that you understand the HMO regulations and how they might affect you. The term HMO was brought into usage in 2004 when the Housing Act of that year defined a House in Multiple Occupation as a house with more than 3 unrelated people sharing, forming two or more households. Of course it doesn't need to be a house, it could be a flat or a barn or a converted church; what matters is how many people live there, and what relation they are to each other.

It's a common misconception that the HMO regulations only apply to flatshares or houseshares: typically situations with a group of students or professionals renting a house together. HMOs can exist in all sorts of forms, and it's perfectly possible to have an HMO as a live in landlord. For your property to be classed as such, you'd need to have more than 2 lodgers, since as a live in landlord, you are allowed two 'non family' lodgers before your property is classed as an HMO.

So if you were to take in three non family members (i.e. not your parents, grandparents, children, step-children, grandchildren, siblings, uncles, aunts or cousins, or any foster children) into your home as paying lodgers, your home will probably be an HMO. It doesn't matter if the lodgers themselves are related to each other or not, as the rule is around forming two or more separate households.

How does this all affect me as a live in landlord?

The HMO definition, if applied to your property, can affect you in two main ways. The first concerns licensing and the other, fire safety.

Live in landlords might need to get a license from your local authority, to avoid a rather hefty fine. In most areas, this is only the case if the property has 3 or more storeys (a loft conversion would count as a third storey), but in many parts of the country now, councils are insisting on licensing for all HMOs in certain problem areas. Contact your council to check what their approach is in your local area.

The most important change required of all HMOs is to put in better fire safety measures. The purpose of the regulation is to keep people safe from fire, and historically HMOs have been more at risk than other properties. You may be required to put in a complex fire safety system.

To find out more about HMOs and whether these regulations affect you, or might affect you in the future if you choose to take in additional lodgers, read our HMO Guide for landlords.

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