[Skip to content]

Your Borough Of Poole

Houses In Multiple Occupancy

Please note: With effect from the 10th October 2016, Bournemouth Borough Council will be managing this service on behalf of the Borough of Poole.

Definition Of A House In Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

For the purpose of the Housing Act 2004 the definition of a House in Multiple Occupancy is a building, or part of a building (e.g. a flat) which:

  • is occupied by more than one household and in which more than one household shares an amenity (or the building lacks an amenity) such as a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities; or,
  • is occupied by more than one household and which is a converted building which does not entirely comprise self contained flats (whether or not there is also a sharing or lack of amenities); or
  • comprises entirely of converted self contained flats and the standard of conversion does not meet, at a minimum, that required by the 1991 building regulations and more than one third of the flats are occupied under short tenancies.

To be categorised as an HMO a property must also be "occupied" by more than one household:

  • as their only or main residence; or,
  • as a refuge by persons escaping domestic violence; or,
  • by students undertaking a full-time course of further or higher education; or,
  • for some other purpose that is prescribed in regulations.

In addition, the households are defined as comprising:

  • families (including single persons and co-habiting couples (whether or not of the opposite sex); or,
  • any other relationship that may be prescribed by regulation, such as domestic staff or fostering or carer arrangements.

The new definition will include properties not previously classed as HMOs and owners should be aware of the classification to ensure compliance of the Management of HMO Regulations 2006 .

Guides are available for standards in Houses of Multiple Occupancy both for licensable and non-licensable properties.

Return to top of page

Planning Legislation and Building Regulations

In addition to the Housing Act 2004, the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, may also apply to Houses in Multiple Occupation. 

As a general rule it is new HMOs with more than six occupants that require Planning permission, but any changes to the HMO, i.e. conversions, provision of additional amenities etc. may be subject to both Planning permission and Building Regulations.

For general information please see the Houses in Multiple Occupation – Landlord Advice and Guidance leaflet.

However, as each HMO is individual, it is recommended you can contact the appropriate department to ensure your property complies with the necessary legislation.


Building Control

Return to top of page

Talbot Village – The Planning Approach to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Our planning and regeneration service unit has been reviewing the use of article 4 directive which can be used under the town and country planning order 1995 to apply restrictions on permitted development rights. Please use the following link to find out more information about how our planning and regeneration service intends to manage this policy, as it will become a requirement if you have a property in the Talbot Village area that you using as a HMO. This requirement will be administered and managed by Planning and Regeneration and not by Housing and Community Services so please direct any enquiries to the Planning and Regeneration team concerning this policy.

Talbot Village - The planning approach to HMOs

Return to top of page

Mandatory Licensing

The aim of the licensing scheme is to provide greater protection for health, safety and welfare of the occupants of HMOs. The provisions are aimed at improving housing conditions in the private sector, in which HMOs are statistically a far lower standard than other rented dwellings.

Licensing is intended to ensure these high risk HMOs come to the attention of the local authority and any management failings and health and safety issues can be addressed to ensure acceptable standards for occupants are being provided.

These high risk HMOs must be licensed from April 2006 and as long as an application has been submitted, even if the licence hasn't been granted and is still being processed, no offence will be committed. It is worth noting that if a property is licensable and no application has been requested and/or obtained, an offence - which carries a fine of up to £20,000 - will be incurred.

The Housing Act 2004 introduces mandatory licensing for a prescribed class of HMOs which can be defined as:

  • The HMO, or any part of it, comprises of three storeys or more and
  • It is occupied by five or more persons which comprise two or more households and 
  • The property has one or more shared facility/amenity

More information about licensing or applying for a licence

Return to top of page

Exemptions To Mandatory Licensing

The following buildings will be exempt, irrespective of whether they meet the above definition:

  • those managed or controlled by RSLs and other public sector bodies
  • those that are regulated under other legislation and prescribed as exempt
  • certain buildings occupied by religious communities
  • buildings occupied by freeholders and long leaseholders with less than one third short tenancies that are not defined as converted blocks
  • buildings occupied by no more than two persons
  • buildings managed by universities for the occupation of students are also exempt if the university is so specified as exempt in the regulations

Return to top of page

Management of HMO Regulations 2006

As a landlord you have responsibilities under the Management of HMO Regulations 2006. These regulations apply to ALL HMOs whether they are licensable or not - with the exception of converted blocks of self contained flats.

These responsibilities include:

  • provision of information to occupants i.e. manager contact details
  • duty to take safety measures including:
  • means of escape - kept clear, maintained in good order and repair, clearly displayed and signposted to all occupants
  • fire fighting equipment kept in good order and maintained
  • take all measures reasonably required to protect occupants from injury - for example, prevention of access to unsafe areas, such as roof areas
  • duty to supply and maintain water supply and drainage, gas and electricity
  • duty to maintain common parts and installations
  • duty to maintain living accommodation - this includes any furniture or appliance provided by landlord
  • duty to provide waste disposal facilities
  • responsibilities of other persons
  • absolves the duty of the manager of the repair of any item the occupant is entitled to remove
  • require or authorise anything to be done which is the responsibility of a local authority or any other person, i.e. a service engineer, other than bringing the matter to their attention
  • duties of occupiers of HMOs - occupiers obligations

Should a landlord fail to comply with the management regulations the local authority is able to take action. This action could take the form of:

  • a fine of up to £5,000
  • an Interim Management Order being applied 

Return to top of page

Fire Safety

Fire safety is crucial in Houses of Multiple Occupation. People living in these circumstances are ten times more likely to die in a fire than those who live in ordinary owner/occupied properties. Most people die in fires by smoke inhalation and poisoning, not from fire itself.

The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 on 1 October 2006 will see changes in the way fire safety provisions are managed within houses (or flats) in multiple occupation.

The new legislation requires landlords and property owners/managers to take ownership and be responsible for producing their own fire risk assessment of the premises to demonstrate adequate provisions are in place to provide a reasonable level of fire safety.

More information regarding the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 can be found on the Dorset Fire and Rescue website at www.dwfire.org.uk

Return to top of page

Contact us


01202 451083

Private Sector Housing, Castlepoint Library, Castle Lane West, Bournemouth, BH8 9UP