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Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Houses in multiple occupation (“HMOs”) provide a source of accommodation for certain groups in the private rented sector. 

Generally, any property which houses three or more unrelated persons, forming more than two households can be classed as a HMO. 

Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 (HA 2004) relates to HMOs.  It provides for the licensing of certain types of HMOs and other arrangements in certain circumstances where people share facilities, for example, where rooms are let in a house and the other facilities are shared, or bed and breakfasts.

A 'House in multiple occupation' is defined in Section 254 of HA 2004.  A building, or part of a building is an HMO if it satisfies one of a number of tests, being:

  1. the 'standard' test:
  2. the 'self-contained flat' test: or
  3. 'converted building' test.

If there is a HMO declaration in force (under Section 255) or it is a converted block of flats which satisfies certain requirements to which Section 257 applies, it will also be classed as a HMO.
Local authorities are required to operate a licensing scheme in relation to certain high risk HMOs, see sections 55 and 61 of the HA 2004 and the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (Wales) Order 2006 made under section 55(3). A local authority can devise its own scheme for other HMOs if it designates its area, or part of its area as subject to additional licensing (see sections 56 and 57 of the HA 2004).

Licences can have conditions attached to them, breach of which is a criminal offence. See Sections 72 to 75 of the HA 2004 relating to enforcement.

Selective licensing

Part 3 of HA 2004 enables local authorities to introduce a selective licensing scheme in which all private landlords in a designated area are required to be licensed.  Selective licensing focusses on areas of low housing demand and areas suffering from anti-social behaviour (section 80 of HA 2004).  An authority must consult and obtain approval from the Welsh Ministers before implementing a selective licensing scheme in a designated area. 

Conditions can be attached to licences, breach of which is a criminal offence. See Sections 95 to 98 of HA 2004 relating to enforcement.

Published on
Last updated
16 December 2021