Name: Houses in multiple occupancy
Description: Information about Houses in Multiple Occupancy

Houses in multiple occupancy

What are houses in multiple occupation?

Full definitions of HMOs can be found in the Housing Act 2004 Part 7.

Premises will generally only constitute an HMO if occupied by three or more people, forming two or more separate households.

A HMO is a building, or part of a building, such as a flat, that:

  • is occupied by more than one household
  • is occupied as their only or main residence
  • rents are payable (or other consideration)
  • where more than one household shares - or lacks - an amenity, such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building -but not entirely self-contained flats (whether or not some amenities are shared or lacking)

Note – an HMO can be formed if an owner occupier has more than two lodgers.

A household can consist of members of the same family e.g. couples, siblings, children (and step children) parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins including half relatives, foster children/parents.

Find out whether your property is an HMO by viewing  ‘Is my property an HMO Checklist’ PDF, 138.91 KB

For any further information with regard to HMO definitions, please contact the Private Sector Housing Team on 01322 343152 or complete the online contact form or download a presentation PDF, 438.69 KB.

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

The Housing Act 2004 requires Local Authorities to licence certain types of houses which are in multiple occupation. Licensable HMOs are currently those of 5 or more persons in premises comprising three or more storeys.

HOWEVER, with effect from 1 October 2018, all HMOs with five or more people comprising of two or more separate households will require a licence to operate regardless of how many storeys the HMO may be. It will be a criminal offence to operate a licensable HMO without a licence; see the Council’s Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy PDF, 1161.89 KB. (There is one exception - a purpose-built flat being occupied by 5 persons as an HMO which is situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats will not require a license).

View more information on HMO Licensing, how to apply for a licence and fees and charges.

IMPORTANT – all HMOs (regardless of whether it is licensable) will be required to meet certain Amenity Standards, have certain fire detection/prevention measures and be free from Category One Hazards under the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) - Housing Act 2004. Each property is assessed on an individual risk basis.

Standards and Management applicable to ALL HMOs

Fire Safety

HMO's are known to pose a greater risk to the occupants in terms of fire safety than those in single family occupation and are required to satisfy the relevant Housing Act legislation. Most HMOs will require a mains wired, interlinked fire detection system and some will also need an emergency lighting system. For further guidance please consult the LACORS Fire Safety Guidance; there are useful worked examples towards the end of the document.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, some HMOs will also need to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, (often referred to as the RRO or just Fire Safety Order). These will typically be houses let as bedsits, hostels and blocks of flats. Further information is found in the HMOs sleeping guide and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Amenity Standards

The property should also meet the requirements outlined in the Amenity Standards document PDF, 398.29 KB which covers room sizes, kitchen and bathroom provisions etc. and has been adopted by Dartford Borough Council.

Other Standards

  • The property should be free of Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Category One Hazards.
  • There should be a current, satisfactory GAS SAFE gas safety certificate for the HMO.
  • An HMO must have a current (within the last 5 years) satisfactory (ie free from C1 and C2 observations) Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) completed by a competent person.
  • Mains wired fire detection or emergency lighting systems should be installed and maintained in accordance with the British Standard 5839 Part 6 and 5266 respectively.


The management of an HMO should comply with the requirements of Statutory Instrument 372 – The management of houses in multiple occupation PDF, 197.79 KB.

Planning Consent

If the dwelling already has planning use class C3 (residential use) and you intend to house six or less persons, then a change in planning use is not normally required. If you have C3 use and intend to house more than six persons, then you should consult with the Planning Department as planning consent for a change of use of the dwelling from single to multi occupancy (sui generis) will be required. If the premise does not have a residential use class you should consult with the planning department, advising on your intentions. Planning can be contacted on 01322 343203 who will offer direct advice.

Other useful information

Some converted buildings with self contained units may still be defined as an HMO but currently fall outside of the licensing system:

  • The Landlords Guide to the Housing Act 2004

    The Housing Act 2004 covers 7 parts. Only those parts considered relevant to landlords have been summarised here
  • Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

    The Housing Act 2004 came into effect on 6 April 2006. The Act requires Local Authorities to licence certain types of houses which are in multiple occupation. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) include those occupied by persons who do not form a single household and are not totally self contained

  • Licensed Houses in Multiple Occupation

    List of licensed HMO's in Dartford Borough

  • Report an HMO

    If you suspect any property within the borough is operating as an unlicensed HMO let us know

Last Updated: 18th March 2019 Print Link