A house in multiple occupation is defined under section 254-257 of the Housing Act 2004 (as amended) as:

  1. A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities
  2. A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households
  3. A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies

Additional licensing and selective licensing

Mandatory licensing is a national scheme that is operated by every Local Authority in the country.

Local Authorities have the power to introduce an additional and/or selective licensing scheme within their area.

Rother District Council does not currently operate either an additional or selective licensing scheme.

A landlord must have a licence for a privately rented HMO if the property meets the following criteria:

  1. Occupied by five or more people
  2. Those people form two or more households
  3. Those occupants share one or more basic amenity

A household is defined as being members of the same family living together including:

  1. Couples married to each other or living together as a couple in a relationship
  2. Relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children (and step-children), grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, niece or cousins
  3. Half-relatives will be treated as full relatives. A foster child living with their foster parents is treated as living in the same household
  4. Any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person for whom they are working
  5. More than two lodgers living with you and your family

An amenity means a toilet, personal washing facilities, or cooking facilities. The degree of sharing is not relevant and there is no requirement that all households share those amenities.

The property must be used as the tenants’ only or main residence. This includes properties let to students and migrant workers and also properties used as domestic refuges.

With effect from the 1 October 2018 mandatory licensing also includes buildings with one or two storeys.

Certain types of properties are exempt from being defined as HMOs. These are where:

  1. Landlords and their household live with up to two tenants
  2. Freeholders or long leaseholders live there
  3. Public Bodies (such as the NHS or Police), a local housing authority or a registered social landlord are the owner
  4. Residential accommodation is ancillary to the main use of the building, for example, religious buildings, conference centres, etc.
  5. They are already regulated (and where the description of the building is specified in regulations), such as care homes, bail hostels, etc (domestic refuges are not exempt)

If your property is not included in the above list, you will need a licence

If your property meets the definition for mandatory licensing then you must apply for a licence and comply with all licence conditions.

In order that a licence can be granted, the Council must be satisfied of the following:

  • The proposed licence holder and any manager of the property is a fit and proper person
  • The proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • Proper management standards are being applied at the property
  • The HMO is reasonably suitable, or can be made suitable for occupation for the number of tenants permitted under the licence.

The Council will use the information from your application and an inspection of the property to determine the above. Any works required to make the property suitable for the number of occupants will be placed as conditions.

You must meet all of the legal housing standards. There are also additional requirements specific to HMOs and these are outlined on this page.

Who can apply

To apply for a HMO you must be the owner, landlord or a nominated person such as a managing agent.

The proposed licence holder must be the person who is the most appropriate person to hold the licence for the property; this is likely to be the person who receives the rent. The council will determine whether the proposed licence holder is ‘fit and proper’ by considering the following:

  • Any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud
  • Whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing legislation or landlord and tenant issues
  • Whether the person has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
  • Whether the person has previously managed HMO’s that have contravened any approved code of practice
  • If the proposed licence holder has been refused a licence

Management regulations

As part of determining if a proposed license holder is a ‘fit and proper’ person, the application has a number of questions relating to the management of the building.

A HMO must be properly managed to ensure the safety of the occupants and the building and all amenities provided are kept in good condition, including appropriate cleaning.

The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 details the standards of management required. This includes the managers duties to maintain the water supply, drainage, gas and electrical supply; to maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances.

Portable electrical equipment

As part of the licence application, if you supply any portable electrical equipment for the use of the tenants, you must have all of the appropriate appliances tested and provide a copy of the test certificate with your application.

Electrical safety

As part of the licence application an electrical installation condition report must be submitted. The report must be within one year of the date specified by which the next inspection is due.

The purpose of the report is to demonstrate that all electrical installations in the property are in a safe condition.

A competent contractor must have completed the inspection, either registered with NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) or ECA (Electrical Contractors Association) or NAPIT (National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers) or similar.

Fire safety and fire risk assessment

It is a legal requirement set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that for all properties that have common parts, a fire risk assessment must be completed to identify the necessary fire precautions required to provide a safe means of escape in the event of a fire.

A licensable HMO should have a suitable fire alarm/early warning detection system installed. If a fire detection system is installed it must be maintained and inspected every six months. A copy of the current test certificate must be submitted with the licence application. Under the licence conditions, suitable fire precautions must be installed and as such will be added to the conditions.

For further information on what fire precautions are required in certain types of buildings please refer to the LACoRS Housing – Fire Safety Guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing.

For an initial application the fee is £920 and then a further £50 to issue the licence. If both fees are paid at the same time the total is reduced to £950

For a renewal of a licence the fee is £650 and then a further £50 to issue the licence. If both fees are paid at the same time the total is reduced to £680

If an application for a licence has not been made and the property is inspected and found to be operating without a licence then an additional £300 will be charged for the initial licence application.

When you are ready to apply please complete our Online HMO Application Form. Our online form will calculate the correct fee for you.

Once a valid application is submitted (including fee) an inspection of the property will be arranged and access will be required to all rooms and communal areas in the property.

We aim to either issue the licence or reject the application within 12 weeks.

A licence can last for a maximum of five years. We may grant a licence for a lesser period if:

  • There is evidence to suggest that management arrangements or property conditions are not entirely satisfactory
  • We have taken intervention against a landlord which does not warrant refusal to grant a licence
  • Concerns are raised by the Police or other statutory enforcement agency
  • The correct planning permission is not in place

As long as a valid application has been submitted, you can continue to operate the HMO legally until a decision has been reached and any appeals against that decision are complete.

All licences are subject to conditions which must be complied with either immediately or within a specified timescale:

  • Provide the Council with a gas safety certificate upon demand
  • Keep electrical appliances and furniture provided in a safe condition
  • Ensure that appropriate smoke detection is installed and maintained in proper working order
  • Provide occupiers with a written statement of terms on which they occupy the property
  • Ensure that the HMO complies with all statutory requirements, this includes current and future management regulations
  • Ensure that all licence conditions are complied with

The Council has produced the Guidance for amenities in Houses in Multiple Occupation to assist landlords in meeting the Government’s prescribed standards for HMOs.

You can read the legislation at The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions)(England) Regulations 2006 (as amended)

By law, it is an offence for the licence holder to fail to comply with all licence conditions without reasonable excuse.

A serious or repeated breach of licence conditions may also be grounds to revoke the licence.

It is an offence for a person having control or managing a licensable HMO to do so without a licence and without reasonable excuse. You can be prosecuted for this offence and if found guilty by the court you can receive an unlimited fine.

In addition for any period where an unlicensed property is being privately rented, an application can be made to the Residential Property Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO). This could mean a landlord having to repay all rent received while the property was unlicensed for up to 12 months. Both private paying tenants and the council can apply for a RRO to claim back monies paid in rent.

Section 21 possession proceedings cannot be taken whilst a property that is required to be licensed is not licensed. This means that a landlord is not able to gain possession of a privately rented property using the powers granted under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

If a landlord feels that the Council has made a decision that is unfair they should contact us so that we can explain the reasons for the decision and hopefully resolve the problem. If the landlord still feels that the Council has acted unfairly by:

  • Refusing to grant a licence
  • Imposing certain conditions on a licence
  • A decision to vary a licence
  • A decision to revoke a licence

The landlord can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) They are an expert, independent tribunal that acts in the same way as the County Court to confirm, vary or overturn the Council’s decision.

If you wish to make a complaint about the service you have received please visit the Council’s Complaints Procedure page.

If you sell the property, the existing licence will be revoked and the new owner will have to apply for a new licence if the property continues to be rented out.

A licence is non-transferable.

If the managing agent changes and they are the licence holder, the licence will need to be revoked and the new managing agent or owner will have to apply for a licence.

If the managing agent changes but they are not the licence holder or manager, the Council must still be notified so the records on the property can be updated.

If changes are made to the property after the licence has been issued, for example, the number of bedrooms in the property is increased, you will need to apply for a variation of the licence.

If you want to convert the property back into a single-family dwelling, you may either notify the Council so that the licence can be revoked or allow the licence to run until it expires and then notify the Council that the licence does not require renewal.

The maximum number of people that can live in a HMO is agreed when the licence is issued. The licence states the maximum number of occupants on a room by room basis and the maximum number of households on a room by room basis. It is against the law to knowingly rent out a licensed HMO to more people than has been permitted. This can result in an unlimited fine on conviction.

You can view the public register of HMOs online.

Please use our online form to report an unlicensed HMO or a HMO with issues around safety and disrepair.