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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A landlord's guide to houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

Jake Edmonds
Written by  Jake Edmonds
Updated: 30 May 2024

Considering becoming a landlord for a house in multiple occupation (HMO)? Find out everything you need to know in this useful guide.

Key points

  • A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property rented by at least three people who are not from one household but share common facilities like bathrooms and kitchens, often used by students and young professionals

  • HMOs require more intensive management due to higher tenant turnover and stricter safety and housing standards, offering potentially higher rental income as rent is charged per room

  • Legal requirements for HMO landlords include obtaining a license, ensuring compliance with safety regulations, and adhering to specific property standards such as minimum room sizes and adequate facilities

row of houses

What is a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?

A House in Multiple Occupation, commonly abbreviated as HMO, refers to a property rented out by at least three people.

These individuals are not from one 'household' (i.e., a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It's a popular setup among students and young professionals. HMOs are characterised by shared living arrangements.

Typically, tenants have their own private bedrooms. They share common areas such as kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms. This type of housing is often more affordable than renting an entire flat or house. This is because costs are split among several people.

Various properties can qualify as HMOs. These include large converted houses, flats in multiple occupation, and sometimes even purpose-built blocks. Landlords must meet specific safety and management standards.

These standards are higher than those required for non-HMO rental properties. Ensuring compliance is crucial for the legality and success of renting out such properties.

Differences between HMO and single let properties

Exploring the distinctions between Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and traditional single let properties reveals several key aspects. Firstly, the potential for rental income varies significantly.

HMOs often generate higher revenue streams. Landlords can charge rent per room rather than for the whole property. This setup is lucrative in areas with high demand for individual lodging, such as university towns.

Secondly, the management and maintenance of these properties contrast sharply. HMOs require more hands-on involvement. This is due to the higher turnover of tenants and the need for compliance with specific safety and housing standards.

Regular inspections, safety checks, and maintenance are more frequent. These add to the operational workload.

Lastly, the demographics and turnover rates of tenants in HMOs differ from those in single let properties. HMOs typically attract students, young professionals, or low-income individuals.

These groups may not commit to long-term leases. This results in a higher tenant turnover. It necessitates more frequent tenant management and property upkeep.

Legal requirements for HMOs

Understanding the legal obligations for HMO landlords is crucial. Compliance helps avoid penalties. Here are the key areas to focus on:

  • Licensing requirements: most HMOs need a licence from the local council. This ensures the property meets safety and suitability standards. Check with your local authority about licensing needs. Understand the process involved

  • Safety regulations: landlords must ensure properties meet safety standards. These include installing smoke alarms and maintaining electrical safety. Adequate fire escapes are necessary. Regular safety inspections are mandatory

  • Compliance checks and penalties: local authorities can conduct compliance checks on HMOs. These ensure licensing conditions are met. Failure to comply can lead to fines or prosecution. Stay informed about your responsibilities. Keep your property up to standard to avoid penalties

Property standards for HMOs

HMO properties must adhere to specific standards for multiple occupants. Here are the key areas for landlords:

  • Minimum room sizes: each bedroom in an HMO must be large enough for the occupant. The government requires single rooms to be no smaller than 6.51 square metres. Double rooms for two people should be at least 10.22 square metres

  • Facilities and amenities: HMOs need adequate cooking and washing facilities for tenants. This includes a sufficient number of bathrooms and kitchens. All occupants must have reasonable access to these facilities. It's also essential to maintain high cleanliness and functionality

  • Health and safety standards: landlords must ensure all HMOs meet strict health and safety regulations. This includes installing and maintaining smoke alarms. Safe appliances must be provided. All electrical and gas equipment must be regularly checked and certified by professionals. Additionally, fire safety measures like clear escape routes and fire doors are mandatory

Considerations for HMO landlords

When managing Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), landlords face several crucial factors. First, understanding market demand is essential. Landlords should research local housing needs. They should also consider student populations if near universities. These factors can significantly influence rental demand.

Balancing costs with profitability is also pivotal. Effective budget management is key. It involves maintaining the property and investing in improvements. These improvements enhance its value and appeal. Regularly reviewing expenses and rental prices keeps the business financially healthy.

Lastly, dealing with tenant issues requires tact and efficiency. Establishing clear communication channels is vital. Setting out explicit house rules can mitigate conflicts. Prompt response to maintenance issues is crucial. Regular property inspections also help maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

Managing an HMO Property

Managing an HMO property requires a strategic approach. This ensures compliance with legal standards and a positive environment for tenants. Regular maintenance and inspections are crucial.

They help adhere to safety regulations and maintain the property’s value. Engaging effectively with tenants is another key aspect. Clear, consistent communication can prevent many issues from escalating.

It also helps in building trust. Additionally, embracing modern technology is beneficial. Management software can streamline administrative tasks. These tasks include tracking rent payments and scheduling repairs. This makes the management process more efficient and less time-consuming.

How to complain about an HMO

If you're living in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and encounter issues, it's crucial to know how to complain effectively. Start by documenting all problems thoroughly. Ensure you have a clear record of dates, times, and descriptions of the issues.

Next, communicate these concerns directly to your landlord or property manager. If the response is inadequate or if problems persist, escalate your complaint. Contact your local council, specifically the environmental health department.

They handle housing standards. Remember, as a tenant in an HMO, you are protected under UK law. This means you have the right to a safe and well-maintained living environment. You also have protection against eviction for raising concerns.

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