Houses in multiple occupation

A house of multiple occupation (HMO) is usually a dwelling that includes bedsits, but the definition can also include hotels, shared houses and bed and breakfast accommodation.

All known HMOs are regularly inspected by council officers.

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 50 HMOs a year based on priority and risk. All new HMOs drawn to our attention will be visited within 28 days and be risk assessed. Following risk assessment those properties in highest priority, particularly non-licensed HMOs that need licensing will be dealt with first. All high-risk properties will be inspected well within six months. The others will be dealt with as soon as is reasonably practicable. In addition we will actively seek out and inspect other HMOs.


What standards are required in HMOs?

The most important one is the need to an adequate means of escape in case of fire. This usually involves the fitting of fire-resisting doors and a fire detection and alarm system, as well as emergency lighting in some properties.

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 and preparation. 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 given the duty to seek out HMOs and enforce safety and amenity standards in them.

How do we enforce this standard?

Visits are made by our staff who draw up a scheme for improving the property. The scheme is then presented to the landlord for his action. As long as reasonable progress is made, then no formal action is taken. If satisfactory progress fails to be made, then a notice will be served using Housing Act powers requiring the works to be done in a specific period.

We work with the Fire Officer to achieve acceptable standards:  Fire Safety Somerset Working Protocol


What happens if the landlord refuses to comply with the notice?

We can either prosecute, or do the works in default and recharge the landlord, or both. But we will ensure that improvements are made where necessary.

Are there any available grants to the landlord?

Currently there are no grants available


Are there any conditions attached to these grants?

Currently there are no grants available

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

If you contact our Housing Standards Team, then they can advise you and inspect the property. The council has wide-ranging powers to serve notices, and to carry out works in default, to ensure that the property is brought up to standard.


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 complained.

Who deals with gas fires 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 0r 0845-404-0506.


How important is good management by the landlord?

It's essential. Effective management is the key to the running of a safe and successful HMO.

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 .   Also 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.

Each Licence lasts for 5 years and costs £300 for a basic 5 room HMO, with an extra £30 charge for each additional room (e.g. £390 for an 8 room HMO).

Discounts apply if you are an accredited landlord (20%) or are a well-trained in HMO management (10%).

To ask for an Application Pack, contact the Housing Standards Section.

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