Houses in multiple occupation

A house of multiple occupation (HMO) is usually a house or building that includes bedsits with shared kitchen and/or bathroom facilities. 

All known HMOs are inspected by council officers.

 Legal definition of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self contained (ie the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form two 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.
  • In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

Whilst there has previously been no specific definition of an HMO in Planning legislation, changes introduced by Government to the Use Classes Order in England only mean that there is now a legal definition for planning terms which means that an HMO has the same meaning as in Section 254 of the Housing Act 2004.

Two specific sets of Regulations have been introduced in England taking effect from 6th April 2010. They are The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010 and The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010

Any new property or conversion from an existing single dwelling to be occupied as an HMO in England will need planning consent under class C4 (HMOs) and Building Regulation approval. In addition, there are now stricter planning controls for HMOs in many areas of Yeovil.


What is our policy with regards to houses of multiple occupation?

Our policy for HMOs (updated in 2015) ensures that all accommodation in this sector is identified and brought up to an acceptable standard.

We will target and inspect HMOs based on priority and risk.  Those properties in highest priority, particularly non-licensed HMOs that need licensing will be dealt with first. All high-risk properties will be inspected at the earliest opportunity. 


What standards are required in HMOs?

The most important one is the need for an adequate warning system and means of escape in case of fire. This usually involves providing a protected route including the fitting of fire-resisting doors and a fire detection and alarm system, as well as emergency lighting in some cases.

In addition, there must be adequate baths, toilets and wash-hand basins, all with hot and cold water supplies and suitable drainage. There must also be adequate facilities in the kitchen for food storage, preparation and cooking. Other requirements include adequate lighting, ventilation, heating and drinking water supplies.

Why are HMOs being singled out for attention?

The risk of death from smoke and fires in this type of accommodation is much higher than other types, and many people have died over the years. Because of this, legislation has been developed and councils will seek out HMOs and enforce safety and amenity standards.

How do we enforce this standard?

Visits are made by our staff who will work with the landlord or landlord's agent to ensure the property meets the standards required.  A notice can be served using Housing Act 2004 powers requiring the premises to be brought up to standard. 

We work with the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to achieve acceptable standards for fire safety.

My bedsit accommodation is in poor repair, what can you do to help?

If you contact our Housing Standards Team they can advise you and inspect the property. The council has wide-ranging powers to ensure that standards are met.


Will my landlord know that I have complained?

Although we try to maintain confidentiality, it is quite possible that the landlord will work out who has made a complaint.

Who deals with gas appliances which are in a poor condition or badly-maintained?

The Health and Safety Executive. They have a telephone Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300363 or go to the  health and safety executive website.

What about the fire risk caused by upholstered furniture?

Somerset County Council's Consumer Protection service enforce the law relating to this. You can contact them by ringing 0845-345-9188 or 0845-404-0506.


How important is good management of a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

Effective management is essential and is the key to the running of a safe and successful HMO. Landlords or agents have legal obligations for managing HMOs, as do tenants.
Landlords and Agent HMO Management Obligations
Tenants Obligations
Tenants Obligations (Polish version)

Do the landlords ever meet to discuss HMOs?

Yes. The Private Sector Landlords' Forum was established in 1995 and is open to all private landlords letting in the South Somerset area. For more information, or to be sent invitations to future events, contact .   See our "Supporting Landlords" page for the latest information.


I hear that some HMOs now require a licence, is this true?

Yes. Legislation passed through Parliament which requires all three-storey HMOs with 5 or more occupants to be licensed. This requirement came into force in April 2006.  It is possible that in future the Government will require all HMOs to be licensed.

Each Licence lasts for 5 years and costs £400 for a basic 5 room HMO, with an extra £30 charge for each additional room (e.g. £390 for an 8 room HMO).

To ask for an Application Pack, contact Housing Standards.

For further information see our page: House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licence.