HMO - the law and planning requirements

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) comprise property known as bedsits, lodgings, shared houses and some converted self-contained flats. The main feature is that there is sharing of facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms/WCs so that occupiers do not have exclusive use of their own facilities.

Landlords must apply for a licence to operate an HMO. There are two types of HMO licence. You must apply for either a mandatory licence or an additional licence. You may be fined or prosecuted if you operate an HMO without the right licence. Find out more on our HMO licensing pages.

Legal definition an HMO

  • Traditional bedsit type houses where tenants have their own room or rooms but share something like a bathroom or kitchen.
  • Shared houses where people live as a group but are not a family group.
  • Houses occupied by the owner (residential landlord) plus two or more lodgers or house sharers*.
  • Mixtures of rooms and flats in a house – as long as there is some sharing.
  • Flats that are let out to sharers, 3 or more.
  • Hostels, projects and other residential uses that involve adults sharing living space (but not if the property is owned or managed by a registered social landlord).
  • Houses converted into self contained flats where they do not meet the requirements of the 1991 Building Regulations, and at least one third of the flats are occupied under shorthold tenancies.

See the full definition of a HMO in the Housing Act 2004 under section 254 or read an overview of HMOs on GOV.UK.

Planning requirements for HMOs

The Council withdrew permitted development rights for small HMOs in Bedford and Kempston on 22 November 2020. This means that where between three and six unrelated people share basic amenities, such as a kitchen or bathroom, planning permission is required for a change of use. Planning permission is, and has always been required for any large HMOs for more than 6 people. You can apply for planning permission for an HMO here

HMO public register

Bedford Borough Council is committed to providing a high-quality information service and we make every effort to present up to date and accurate information. The information contained within the HMO public registers is updated regularly however the Council gives no warranty or representation, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or appropriateness of the information.

By using the information contained within the registers you are assuming full responsibility for using this information and are agreeing that neither Bedford Borough Council nor any of its employees or agents is responsible or liable for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.