Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Guidance and Regulations

Under the Housing Act 2004 Local Authorities regulate Houses in Multiple Occupation. This includes assessing housing conditions and enforcing housing standards. The act also provides for larger HMO’s to be licensed. Private sector housing officers are available to inspect the HMO and advise on all works required to meet the provisions of the act. In addition, all HMOs require planning permission to change the usage of the property to a HMO.

What is a HMO

HMO Licensing

HMO Fire Safety Standards

HMO Amenity Standards

HMO Management Regulations

Planning Requirements for HMOs

Building Regulations for HMOs


What is a HMO

The full definition of a HMO can be found in the Housing Act 2004 under section 254.

For guidance, a property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) if it is;

  • An entire house or flat which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet;
  • A house converted into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation, which are let individually to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities;
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not fully self-contained (where the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households;
  • A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies. The definition for dwellings converted to self-contained flats is found under section 257 of the Housing Act 2004.


In order to be a HMO the property must also be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants.  Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.  The full definition of what constitutes a tenants only or main residence can be found in the Housing Act 2004 under section 259.


What is a household

The full definition of a household can be found in the Housing Act 2004 under section 258

For guidance, a household is defined as:

  • couples married to each other or living together as husband and wife (or equivalent relationship in the case of people of the same sex)
  • relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children (and step-children), grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins (half-relatives will be treated as full relatives. A foster child living with his foster parent is treated as living in the same household as his foster parent)
  • any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in the accommodation provided by the person they are working for


  • three friends sharing together count as three households
  • if a couple are sharing with a third person, that would consist of two households
  • if a family rents a property, that is a single household
  • if that family had a live-in au pair to look after their children, that person would be included in their household

HMO Licensing

On 1st October 2018 the Mandatory licensing rules change across England. The scheme is being extended to include all HMOs regardless of the number of storeys.  Therefore from this date all HMOs that are occupied by five or more people who are not all related, and where there is some sharing of facilities, will require a HMO licence.

The scheme was previously restricted to properties that were three or more storeys in height.

For more information on HMO Licensing and how to apply

HMO Fire Safety Standards

HMOs require a certain level of fire precautions which may include mains wired interlinked fire alarm system, emergency lighting and a fully protected means of escape.  The Private Sector Housing team will carry out an inspection and if necessary advise on the works required.  These works are based on a Housing Health & Safety Rating System inspection, the LACORS - Guidance on Fire Safety Provisions for certain types of existing housing and following a consultation with Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Other fire safety legislation that may be applied to HMO’s includes Building Regulations, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

The guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing advises you on how to comply with fire safety law, helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions you need to have in place.

A brief summary of what actions that may be required by you are;

  • Complete a fire risk assessment and consider the fire precautions required in your property to either eliminate or reduce the risk to the lowest possible level. All assessments to be carried out by a competent person.
  • Consider escape routes which may require the provision of a fire barrier between the common areas and the living accommodation to create a protected route to a place of ultimate safety.
  • Consider the need for a fire detection and warning system.
  • Consider the need for emergency escape lighting.
  • Consider firefighting equipment and facilities.
  • Consider the need for signs and notices.
  • Consider recording, planning, informing, instructing and training which will require producing a fire action plan.


Any fire safety measures provided will need to be maintained and this requirement is included in the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

Ensure that you carry out regular inspections of your property and document defects and rectify all faults.

Fire Alarm, Detection System & Fire Fighting Equipment

Ensure that you test all firefighting equipment and fire detection systems in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If defects are identified, ensure that these are recorded and then rectify all faults.

Ensure that periodic inspections and servicing of equipment are carried out by a competent person and in line with manufacturer’s instructions.

Protected Escape Route

These are provided to ensure that in the event of a fire the occupants can leave the building safely.  Ensure that they are free from any obstruction and that the floors, walls, floor covering, stairs and hand rails are in a sound condition.  Attention must be given to where walls meet door frames to ensure there are no gaps which may allow fire to spread.


Fire doors must not be propped open. Carry out regular checks for damage to the door or the door frame.  Ensure that the self-closing device works as intended and do not paint over cold smoke seals or intumescent strips.

Ensure all exit doors from the building are free from obstruction and can be opened from the inside without the use of a key.


Cupboards that are in use should be of fire resisting construction. Cupboards that are not protected should be empty and locked at all times.


Check lighting to ensure that it operates correctly.  If emergency lighting is required check in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and ensure that the servicing of equipment is carried out by a competent person.

If you would like an inspection of your property or are thinking of letting a property as a HMO and would like further information or advice relating to fire safety or any other matters regarding the legislation that applies to HMO’s, please contact Private Sector Housing Team on 01908 252664 or by email.


HMO Amenity Standards

All HMOs require sufficient bathroom and kitchen facilities; and bedroom sizes should be of a sufficient size for the number of occupiers; for further guidance, refer to our Amenity Standards (PDF, 261KB)


HMO Management Regulations

All HMOs are subject to regulations to ensure that they are properly managed and maintained.  These regulations impose duties on the manager of a HMO to ensure adequate facilities are provided and kept in good order and the residents are provided with contact details for the manager.

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 No.372

The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 No.373

The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007 No.1903

The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Certain Blocks of Flats) (Modification to the Housing Act 2004 and Transitional Provisions for section 257 HMOs) (England) Regulations 2007 No.1904


Planning Requirements for HMOs

Milton Keynes has introduced an Article 4 Directions which means that planning permission is required when converting a dwelling house (C3), or non-residential property, to an HMO use class (C4) or Sui Generis.  When making your planning application ensure you refer to the HMO supplementary planning document for guidance or for further information please contact Planning Enquiries on 01908 691691 or sent an email.

Building Regulations for HMOs

Some conversion works may require building regulation approval; for further advice please contact the Building Control Team on 01908 252721 by email.


Last Updated: 15 December 2020