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Houses in multiple occupation

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO) is a term used to define types of letting that comprise bedsits, shared houses, hostels and some converted self contained flats that do not meet current Building Regulations standards. Bedsit living in Bedford usually means living in rooms in a large 3-storey Victorian house.

House in multiple occupation means a building, or part of a building eg flat:

  • which is occupied by more than one household and in which more than one household shares an amenity (or the building lacks an amenity) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities or,
  • which is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building which does not entirely comprise self contained flats (whether or not there is also a sharing or lack of amenities) or
  • which comprises entirely of converted self contained flats and the standard of conversion does not meet, at a minimum, that required by the 1991 Building Regulation and more than one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

And is 'occupied' by more than one household:

  • as their only or main residence, or
  • as a refuge by persons escaping domestic violence, or
  • during term time by students, or
  • for some other purpose that is prescribed in regulations.
And the households comprise:
  • families (including foster children, children being cared for) and current domestic employees,
  • Single persons’
  • Co-habiting couples (whether or not of the opposite sex).

Until the 2004 Housing Act there had been a lot of confusion and contradictory case law on this subject which had made enforcing the important laws relating to HMOs very difficult. The new Act tightened up the definition. The main element of the definition is that, in order for a house to be an HMO, there must be some sharing of facilities (baths, WCs and kitchens). The definition of an HMO is found in the Housing Act 2004, section 254 and Schedule 14.

The exception to this rule is for pre 1991self contained flat conversions. Some of the conversions were carried out well before modern Building Regulations specified the correct fire resistance and noise insulation (1991) required to ensure an appropriate building standard. Such conversions may require updating to ensure the welfare and safety of occupiers so the Act gives Councils essential powers if more than 1/3rd of the flats are occupied on shorthold tenancies.

If you need help or want to understand more about houses in multiple occupation contact the Housing Enforcement team by email for assistance.