A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is:

  • an entire house or flat let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 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 3 or more tenants who form 2 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 so extra legal requirements will apply

Extra legal requirements apply to HMOs.

The property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence to be an HMO and it should only or mainly be used to house tenants.

Properties let to students, migrant workers or used as domestic refuges are treated as the occupant’s only or main residence and are defined as HMOs.

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
  • 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

Our Amenity standards for HMOs detail the necessary standards that HMOs should achieve in relation to bathroom, toilet and cooking provision. 

These documents also include details of minimum room sizes for HMOs. The legal minimum room sizes are:

  • 6.52 square metres for a 1 person room
  • 10.23 square metres for a 2 person room

HMOs need to be well managed and the structure, facilities and equipment within them 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 HMOs, 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.

HMO licensing

By law, HMOs with 5 or more occupants, who share a bathroom, toilet or kitchen must be licenced with us.

It is a serious criminal offence to have a HMO without a licence. It can result in prosecution or a civil penalty.

We aim to work with landlords to help and advise them to meet the HMO standards. We can use our housing enforcement powers if we need to.

You can apply for a licence if you own or manage a HMO.

Report an issue with an HMO

Report it

HMO licensing register

We keep a public register of all licenced HMO’s which we update regularly.

Mandatory HMO Licence Register as of 12 April 2024 as .xlsx