In England and Wales
When the property is a large HMO, the landlord must get a licence from the local council. A large HMO is one that meets the requirements as set out above.
Further requirements include conditions that the floor area used as sleeping accommodation by one person over 10 in an HMO in one room must not be less than 6.51 square metres. Bedrooms used by two people over 10 must be at least 10.22 square metres while bedrooms used by under-10s cannot be smaller than 4.64 square metres. Note that some councils may set higher standards for bedroom sizes.
Some councils also require other HMOs to be licensed, even if the property is smaller or rented to fewer people. When deciding whether to issue a licence, the council will check that the property meets an acceptable standard (eg whether the property is large enough for the occupants and is well managed). It may also consider whether the landlord is a 'fit and proper' person. For further information, read Selective licensing.
If you are a landlord and want to know whether your HMO needs a licence, you should check with your Local Authority for their policies on HMOs, as there are large fines for non-compliance.
Licences usually last for 5 years but some councils grant them for shorter periods of time.
In Scotland, landlords must have a licence for all HMOs. If you rent out an unlicensed HMO property, you could be fined up to £50,000. The local council issues HMO licences and it will carry out a number of checks before doing so, including:
that you’re ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence (ie no criminal convictions for fraud or theft).
that you manage the property properly (ie you carry out your responsibilities as a landlord and respect the tenants’ legal rights).
that the property meets the HMO standards (eg the bedrooms must be of adequate size, the property should be secure and adequate fire safety and security measures must be in place).
Licences usually last for 3 years and they must be renewed before they expire.