What is an HMO?

If a landlord rents out a property which fits one of the following types of accommodation it's likely to be a 'house in multiple occupation': (HMO) and additional legal requirements will apply:

  • an entire house or flat let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet, these are typically shared houses or bedsits
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained (meaning that the flat does not contain a kitchen, bathroom or 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, these buildings have not been converted to any standard or a recent standard and therefore additional legal requirements will apply

In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students, migrant workers or used as domestic refuges will be treated as the occupant’s only or main residence and will therefore be defined as HMO's.

Housing standards in HMOs

As well as meeting the general standards for residential premises, HMOs must also achieve additional requirements for fire precautions, the provision of amenities such as bathrooms, toilets and kitchens and also steps to prevent overcrowding. The extra requirements aim to protect the health and safety of occupants and to prevent serious discomfort. They ensure the building is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of residents.

HMO Amenity standards and Management

The council's Amenity standards for HMOs, detail the necessary standards that all such properties should achieve in relation to bathroom, toilet and cooking provision. 

These documents also include details of minimum room sizes for HMO's. It should be noted that the government has now legislated for minimum room sizes for all licenced HMO's of 6.52 sq m. for a one person room and 10.23 sq m. for a two person room.

All HMO's need to be well managed and the structure, facilities and equipment within HMO's need to be kept in good repair and well maintained. Specific management regulations apply for this purpose.

Fire Safety

The housing fire safety guide (LACORS) also provides useful guidance on the fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing including HMO's, single dwellings and buildings converted to flats.

In addition the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 replaces previous fire safety legislation and requires that the "responsible person" perform a fire risk assessment for the common areas of all HMOs. Further information can be obtained from the Home Office Website and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Mandatory HMO licensing

From the 1 October 2018 legislation now require that all HMOs with five or more occupants, who share a bathroom, toilet or kitchen must be licenced with the local authority. This means that for the first time all single storey and two storey HMO's with five or more occupants are required to be licenced.

If you own or manage an HMO that should be licensed within the Dorset Council area, you can make an application below. Failure to hold a licence for such properties is a serious criminal offence which can result in prosecution or a civil penalty.

We aim to work with landlords to meet the current HMO standards through assistance and advice. However, where appropriate we will also consider the use of our housing enforcement powers.

Apply for an HMO licence

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Mandatory HMO licensing – register

We maintain a public register of all licenced HMO’s. These records are ‘up to date’ as of the 1 February 2021 and will be revised periodically.

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