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What are HMOs?

To qualify as an HMO, a property must be rented by a minimum of 3 tenants who belong to more than one household (in England and Wales) or more than 2 families (in Scotland) and who share a kitchen, bathroom, or toilet. For more information, read HMOs

Follow this checklist to ensure you follow all relevant steps when renting out a property as an HMO. Note that the requirements for renting out HMOs vary depending on whether a property is located in England, Wales or Scotland.The checklists below detail the key steps involved in renting out an HMO in England and Wales and in Scotland separately.

Checklist for renting out an HMO in England and Wales

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Check whether your HMO is a ‘large’ HMO.

A large HMO is an HMO that is rented to at least 5 tenants who form more than one household. 

Under the Housing Act 2004, ‘large’ HMOs (ie HMOs with at least 5 tenants) must have a licence.

 

Licence your large HMO.

Large HMOs must have a licence. In England, this is mandatory regardless of how many storeys of the property the tenants use. In Wales, a large HMO may only need to be licensed if it is at least 3 storeys high. 

Apply for an HMO licence with your local council. Licences usually last for 3 years and must be renewed before they expire. 

For more information, read HMOs. Note that all landlords in Wales, including HMO landlords, must also be registered with Rent Smart Wales.

 

Check room size restrictions.

Requirements that must be met in order to licence a large HMO in England include the requirement that the floor area of rooms used as bedrooms must be over a certain size. In England, bedrooms used by:

  • one person over 10 years old must not be smaller than 6.51m2

  • 2 people must be at least 10.22m2

  • under-10s cannot be smaller than 4.64m2

In Wales, there are no strict room size requirements. However, an HMO landlord must ensure that a property is not overcrowded. Whether a property is overcrowded can be determined by reference to the number of people in a property, their ages, and the sizes of areas throughout the property. For more information, see the Shelter Cymru guidance on overcrowding

Note that some local councils may set higher standards for bedroom sizes or distinct rules on overcrowding.

 

Understand additional licensing.

Local authorities can impose additional licensing requirements in certain areas if they have a good reason for doing so. 

Additional licensing requires certain HMOs that aren’t already covered by mandatory licensing to obtain HMO licences. For example, additional licensing might require all HMOs in a given area to have a licence (ie not just large HMOs).

If you’re unsure if additional licensing applies to your HMO, you can contact your local council.

 

Comply with relevant licensing requirements.

Not complying with HMO and selective licensing requirements can result in severe consequences. These include, but are not limited to: 

Renting out an unlicensed HMO in England can result in fines of up to £30,000.

 

Comply with HMO safety regulations. 

As landlord, you have several responsibilities including taking care of safety measures, such as:

  • carrying out gas safety checks yearly and electrical safety checks every 5 years

  • taking precautions for fire safety such as ensuring smoke alarms are installed as required

  • repairing regular parts, fittings, fixtures, and appliances

  • ensuring that the property isn’t overcrowded - see the Shelter guidance for England and for Wales to learn what constitutes overcrowding

For more information, read Legal obligations of a landlord.

 

Get ready to rent out your property.

Make sure you comply with the key rules governing residential tenancies, including:

For more information, read Renting property and Legal obligations of a landlord.

 

Enter into a formal agreement with your tenants.

Formalise your relationships with your tenants by entering into a Tenancy agreement. When renting out a property as an HMO, you may choose to rent to all tenants under the same tenancy agreement. Or, it may be more suitable to rent to each household unit under a separate Room rental agreement (in England) or Occupation contract for a room (in Wales).  

You should also consider making an Inventory (with or without photos), to record the state of the property (including any furniture) before the tenants move in.

Follow our How to make a tenancy agreement checklist when making a tenancy agreement for a property located in England.

 

Checklist for renting out an HMO in Scotland

Action

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Licence your HMO.

All HMOs in Scotland must have a licence. 

Apply for an HMO licence via your local council. Licences usually last for 3 years and must be renewed before they expire. 

For more information, read HMOs.

 

Guarantee you comply with licensing requirements.

Licensing is mandatory for all HMOs in Scotland. Local councils issue HMO licences and will carry out several checks before doing so. 

Renting out an unlicensed HMO is a criminal offence and you, as the landlord, can be fined up to £50,000. 

For more information, read HMOs.

 

Check room size restrictions.

Every bedroom in the HMO should also be large enough to (as a minimum) accommodate a bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers. 

Check with the local council to make sure they don’t have different (ie larger) minimum room size requirements you need to follow.

 

Comply with HMO safety regulations. 

Landlords are responsible for taking care of safety measures, such as:

  • carrying out gas safety checks yearly and electrical safety checks every 5 years

  • taking precautions for fire safety, such as providing fire extinguishers and fire blankets, and maintaining fire escape routes

  • repairing regular parts, fittings, fixtures, and appliances

  • ensuring that the property isn’t overcrowded, by reference to Shelter guidance for Scotland

For more information, read Legal obligations of a landlord in Scotland.

 

Get ready to rent out your property

Make sure you comply with the key rules governing renting out residential property in Scotland, such as:

For more information, read Rent out property in Scotland and Legal obligations of a landlord in Scotland.

 

Make a formal contract with your tenants.

Formalise your relationship with your tenants by entering into a Tenancy agreement. When renting out a property as an HMO, you may choose to rent to all tenants under the same tenancy agreement or it may be more suitable to rent to each family unit under a separate Private residential tenancy for a room.  

You should also consider making an Inventory (with or without photos), to record the state of the property (including any furniture) before the tenants move in.

 

For more information on houses in multiple occupation, read HMOs. To learn more about renting out residential property in general, read Residential tenancies, Residential tenancies in Wales, and Residential tenancies in Scotland. Consider also using our How to make a tenancy agreement checklist.

If you have any questions or concerns, Ask a lawyer.


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