Houses in multiple occupation

What is a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

The Housing Act 2004 defines a HMO as:
  • An entire house or flat, which is let out to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bed-sits or other non-self contained accommodation and which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
  • 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, occupy.
  • A building, which has been 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 on short-term tenancies.
The local authority authorised officer will ultimately determine whether any premises is classed as a HMO or not.

In order to be a HMO the property must be used as the tenants only or main residence and it should be used to solely or mainly to house tenants. In addition, rent should be payable in at least one of the units. 

Responsibilities of the owner/manager

LACORS fire safety guide is intended for buildings which have been constructed or adapted for use as a domestic property and includes HMO's. However it doesn't apply to properties constructed or converted to a standard in compliance with the building regulations 1991 or later. 

The risk of a fire breaking out at house in multiple occupation is greater than in a single family home. Here are some areas to consider:
  • Have the fire precautions from your fire risk assessment been implemented in the common areas to eliminate or reduce the risks identified to the lowest possible level?
  • Do the escape routes require the provision of a fire barrier between the common areas and living accommodation to create a protected route to the place of ultimate safety? Escape routes should always be free of any obstructions. 
  • The need for a fire detection and warning system and whether this should be included in the living accommodation. 
  • Is there a need for emergency escape lighting?
  • Is fire fighting equipment and facilities needed? 
  • Is there a need for signs and notices?
  • Recording, planning, informing, instructing and training which will require producing a fire action plan.
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Licences for Landlords

Under the mandatory licensing scheme a HMO must be licensed if its occupied by:
  • Five or more people
  • who form two or more households and:
  • who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities. 
The licence ensures that the property is managed correctly and meets safety standards. These safety standards include fire safety. Even if your property doesn't meet the above criteria, you may still require a licence as local councils can impose additional licences. The best thing to do is check with your local council to determine if a licence is required for your property.

Tenant Fire Safety

Here are some Do's and Don'ts.

  • Become familiar with escape routes and exits from the building. The final exit door from a HMO should be easily openable from the inside without the use of a key. This also applies to exit doors from each flat or bedsit.
  • Unplug electrical appliances at night.
  • Close communal and bedroom doors, particularly when people are sleeping. Including during the day when those who may work nights would be sleeping. 
  • Check for burning cigarettes before going to bed.
  • Keep storage to designated areas.
  • Wedge open fire doors.
  • Remove door closing devices.
  • Tamper with fire alarms or equipment.
  • Overfill chip pans.
  • Smoke in bed.
  • Block halls and stairways, including bikes, pushchairs etc.
  • Overload plug sockets or have extension leads running of extension leads.
  • Leave children alone with matches, cooking or heating appliances.

What to do in the event of a fire:

  • Do not attempt to fight fires that have already taken hold. Evacuate yourself and your family from the house. If you share the house with other people sound the alarm as you make your escape. 
  • Do not try to rescue belongings and pets. Your life and lives of your family are too precious too risk.
  • Telephone the fire service on 999 immediately from a place of safety. Speak slowly and try to be calm answering the questions you are asked. If you think there maybe someone left in the building then inform the 999 operator.
  • If in doubt, Get out!



Last updated: Friday 21 May 2021

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