What is HMO?

HMO stands for house in multiple occupation, which is defined under sections 254 & 257 of the Housing Act 2004. An HMO can be a building or part of a building if it is:

  • Occupied by persons who form more than one household and where those persons share (or lack) one or more basic amenity, such as a WC, personal washing and cooking facilities
  • A converted building containing one or more units of accommodation that do not consist entirely of self-contained flats. (There is no requirement that the occupiers share facilities)
  • A converted building consisting entirely of self-contained flats, where the building work undertaken in connection with the conversion did not comply with the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

To be classified as an  HMO, the house must be occupied by more than one household:

  • as their only or main residence
  • as a refuge
  • by students during term time
  • for another purpose that is described in regulations


  • occupation as living accommodation must be the only use of the accommodation
  • rents are payable or other considerations are provided

Under the Housing Act 2004, a household comprises:

  • a single person
  • co-habiting couples (whether or not of the opposite sex)
  • a family (including foster children and children being cared for) and current domestic employees.

Exemptions from HMO definitions

Certain types of buildings will not be classified as HMOs. They are:

  • buildings, or parts of buildings, occupied by no more than two households, each of which comprise a single person only (for example, two person house or flat shares)
  • buildings occupied by a resident landlord with up to two tenants
  • buildings managed or owned by a public sector body, such as the police, local authority, registered provider landlords, fire and rescue authority or the NHS
  • buildings occupied by religious communities
  • student halls of residence where the education establishment has signed up to an Approved Code of Practice
  • buildings occupied entirely by freeholders or long leaseholders