Licensing houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Definition of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Your home is a property in multiple occupation (HMO) if both of the following apply:

  • at least three tenants live there, forming more than one household
  • you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants

Your home is a large HMO if both of the following apply:

  • at least five tenants live there, forming more than one household
  • you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants

A household is either a single person or members of the same family who live together. A family includes people who are:

  • married or living together - including people in same-sex relationships
  • relatives or half-relatives, for example grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings
  • step-parents and step-children

Licensable and Non-licensable HMOs

Some HMOs require a licence (licensable) while some don’t (non-licensable). Find out if you need a licence.

The Council has created a leaflet that gives a summary of the things you need to do if you operate a HMO (PDF 4.91MB).

Before converting a property to any type of HMO, you should check if you need planning permission. For further information, please contact Watford's Planning department for advice.

Fire safety

Both types of HMO have to meet extra fire safety rules.

  • HMOs need mains powered fire alarms and a protected means of escape in case of fire.
  • To determine the upgrades needed you should carry out a fire risk assessment (PDF 58kB). To make this process simpler details are available in this guide (PDF 1.75MB).

There are extra fire safety conditions for licensable HMOs.

Housing conditions

  • HMOs need to have sufficient numbers of kitchens and bathrooms for the number of tenants
  • Rooms must also be of sufficient size. For more detail as to these requirements, please see Amenity and Space Guidance (PDF 527kB)

The property must meet basic standards relating to housing conditions, such as:

  • The design of the HMO (i.e. the fire alarm, fire doors, etc)
  • The cleaning of the common parts (kitchen, bathrooms and hallways)
  • Ensuring rubbish is handled properly
  • The maintenance of the property
  • Making sure you display your contact details in the property

Not following these requirements can be a criminal offence and lead to an unlimited fine.

We have created services to help you through this process, ranging from free advice to surveys and tailored reports.

Council tax in HMOs

The landlord pays council tax in most cases. But please contact the council tax department for advice relating to your property.

If you need more information or would like us to visit your property to offer advice then please contact us online or call 01923 278 503.

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