Housing in multiple occupation

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is defined as a property occupied by three or more persons (including children) who form more than one household. This includes buildings converted into self-contained flats (which do not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations).

A household may be a single person or several members of the same family. For example: 

  • a house occupied by a brother, sister and one other unrelated occupant would form two households
  • three unrelated persons would form three households

The tenancy agreement is not relevant in determining if a house is an HMO. Nor is the size of the property (e.g. the number of storeys).

All HMOs of 5 or more occupants are now licensable regardless of how many floors the property has.  
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In purpose-built flats where there are up to two flats in the block, a licence will be required if:

  • one or both of the flats are occupied by 5 or more people
  • the occupants form 2 or more separate households
  • this will apply regardless of whether the block is above or below commercial premises.

This will bring certain flats above shops on high streets within mandatory licensing as well as small blocks of flats which are not connected to commercial premises.

It is the individual HMO that is required to be licensed and not the building within which the HMO is situated. This means that where a building has two flats and each is occupied by 5 persons living in 2 or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

Either the landlord (owner) or someone they nominate (such as a manager or agent) can hold the licence, provided that person is in agreement.
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To grant a licence, we must be satisfied that:

  • the proposed licence holder and any manager of the property are ‘fit and proper’ persons
  • the proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • satisfactory management standards are in place
  • the HMO is reasonably suitable, or can be made suitable, for occupation by the number of tenants allowed under the licence and has at least the minimum prescribed standards of amenities and facilities (including the number, type and quality of shared bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities)

The licence holder and any manager must be ‘fit and proper’ persons to hold the licence or manage the HMO.
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In determining whether the licence holder or manager is ‘fit and proper', we will consider:

  • any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud
  • whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues
  • whether the person has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
  • whether the person has previously managed HMOs that have breached any approved code of practice
  • the licensing application form has a ‘fit and proper’ person declaration that the proposed licence holder and any manager must complete and sign. A DBS certificate will be included as part of this process

The HMO licence will specify the maximum number of people permitted to occupy the HMO and if necessary, the number of people permitted to occupy each room within the HMO.
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The HMO licence will be valid for up to five years and then after this point will need to be renewed. There are mandatory licensing conditions that must be complied with. These include:

  • provision of an annual gas safety certificate
  • ensuring all electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • ensuring smoke alarms are installed and kept in proper working order
  • ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room containing a solid fuel burning combustion appliance and keep the alarm in proper working order
  • provision of a tenancy agreement to each occupier

Discretionary conditions may also be applied, these could include: 

  • restrictions or prohibitions on the use or occupation of parts of the HMO
  • requirement to deal with any anti-social behaviour by person(s) occupying or visiting the HMO
  • provision of additional facilities
  • requirements to ensure that fixed electrical installations, electrical appliances and fire detection systems are in working order and the relevant certificates are provided.

Failure to licence an HMO or to permit a breach of the licence conditions will incur penalties.
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Failure to licence an HMO or to permit a breach of the licence conditions will incur the following penalties:

  • a financial penalty up to £30,000
  • prosecution potentially resulting in a criminal record and an unlimited fine
  • a Rent Repayment Order to recover up to 12 months’ worth of rent paid by housing benefits to the landlord / agent directly or by the tenant. Tenants including former tenants living at the property whilst it was unlicensed, or the Local Authority may apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a Rent Repayment Order
  • Interim Management Order
  • the landlord cannot issue a section 21 "Notice Requiring Possession" during the period the property is unlicensed

North Northamptonshire Councils Enforcement Policy includes information on HMOs and North Northamptonshire Council's Adopted HMO Standards.

You can apply for an HMO licence through our Central Licensing Administration Unit.
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A licence application form can be downloaded. Please consult the application guidance notes for help in completing your application or contact the Central Licensing Administration Unit on 01832 742102 for assistance.

Why information is on a different website
We are in the process of adding information to this new unitary council website. Some pages will give you a link back to a previous council website to help you find what you need. Read more about the changes.