So what is the HMO Definition House in Multiple Occupation ?
Where did it come from ?
Does it affect my property ?
I think I have one, but do I need to have a License ?
My local authority say my property is an HMO, but I say it is not – Who is right ?
HMO Definition (Old)
HMO Definition in the 1985 Housing Act was an HMO “House which is Occupied by persons who do not form a single household”. Over the years, a body of case law relating to the HMO definition has developed. Currently, in its broadest meaning, a house is ‘a building which is constructed or adapted for use as or for the purpose of a dwelling (Ashbridge Investments Ltd v Ministry of Housing and Local Government 1965).
It is also ‘a place fitted and used and adapted for human habitation’ (Reed v Hastings Corporation 1964). There are a variety of other premises included as houses under case law (e.g. lodging-houses, holiday homes for children, hostels and hotels occupied by homeless families). Houses converted into flats (whether self-contained flats or not) are still houses (Okereke v London Borough of Brent 1967).
A single flat cannot be a house for the purposes of this part of the Housing Act. Although it has not been legally tested, it is generally assumed that a single tower block is not a house. Occupied means ‘lived in’ (Silbers v Southwark LBC 1977). Therefore vacant houses cannot be HMOs under the legal definition.
The ‘not of a single household’ is the most complex part of the HMO definition. A ‘single household’ is not defined. Before 1969, membership of a family group or lettings in lodgings were considered a household, but this is no longer the case. The question of whether a group of people living in a house constitutes one or more household depends on the specific facts of the case in question.
There is no single criteria to decide if a single household is present. However, in 1995, the Barnes v Sheffield City Council case provided nine ‘helpful indicators’.
a. whether the persons living in the house came to it as a single group or whether they were independently recruited;
b. what facilities were shared;
c. whether the occupants were responsible for the whole house or just their particular rooms;
d. whether individual tenants were able to, or did, lock other occupiers out of their rooms;
e. whose responsibility it was to recruit new occupiers when individuals left;
f. who allocated rooms;
g. the size of the property;
h. how stable the group composition was; and
i. whether the mode of living was communal.
If residents are recruited individually by the landlord and allocated a room, do not share facilities, have little communal living, and live in a large property with a rapid turnover of residents, then they are likely to be considered separate households. However, each case is decided on its own merits.
For example (Simmons v Pizzey 1979), 75 people were in occupation of a refuge for victims of domestic violence. The women organised the business of the house collectively, eating and undertaking the arrangements of the house together. No occupant had a special part of the house to herself. However, it was not intended that the women should live at the refugee indefinitely. Some would move to permanent accommodation of their own, and others return to their former homes. Despite, the communal arrangements, it was held that this could not amount to occupation as a single household.
The legal HMO Definition is very complex and often revolves around the definition of a household. Within the legal definition, there is no attempt to distinguish between different types of HMO.
HMO Definition – 2004 Housing Act
Definition of an HMO or House in Multiple Occupation
Most of the above is in the past, certainly when it comes to occupation and single household.
Since the introduction of the Housing Act 2004, a powerful piece of government legislation, there is a clear picture as to what the HMO Definition is and what constitutes a House in Multiple Occupation
In simple terms:
The HMO Definition – A house which is occupied by three of more unrelated persons, who do not form a single household – this definition is supported by Sections 254, 257 and 258 of the Housing Act 2004
In more depth:
” For the purposes of this Act a building or a part of a building is a ” house in multiple occupation ” if:
a it meets the conditions in subsection 2 (“the standards test”)
b it meets conditions in subsection 3 (” the self contained flat test”)
c it meets conditions in subsection 4 (“the converted building test”)
d an HMO declaration is in force in respect of it under section 255 OR
e it is a converted block of flats to which section 257 applies
(2) A building meets the standard test if
a – it consists of one or more units of living accommodation not consisting of self contained flats
b – the living accommodation is occupied by persons who do not form a single household (section 258)
c – the living accommodation is occupied by those persons as their only or main residence or they are to be treated as so occupying it (section 259)
d – their occupation of the living accommodation constitutes the only use of that dwelling
e – rents are payable or other consideration is to be provided in respect of at least one of those persons’ occupation of the living accommodation
f – two or more of the households who occupy the living accommodation share one or more basic amenities or the living accommodation is lacking in one or more basic amenities
(3) A part of a building meets the self-contained flat test if-
a – it consists of SELF CONTAINED FLATS; AND
b – paragraphs b -f of subsection 2 apply
(4) A building or a part of a building meets the converted building test if
a – it is a CONVERTED BUILDING
b – it contains one or more units of living accommodation that do not consist of a self contained flat or flats
c – the living accommodation is occupied by persons who do not form a single household
d – the living accommodation is occupied by those persons as their only or main residence or they are to be treated as so occupying it
e – their occupation of the living accommodation constitutes the only use of that accommodation
f – rents are payable or other consideration is to be provided in respect of at least one of those persons’ occupation of the living accommodation
(1) For the purpose of this section a “converted block of flats” means a building or part of a building which-
a – has been converted into, and
b – consists of, self contained flats
(2) This section applies to a converted block of flats if-
a – building work undertaken in connection with the conversation did not comply with the appropriate building standards and still does not comply with them; and
b – less than two thirds of the self contained flats are owner-occupied.
(3) In subsection 2 “appropriate building standards” means- a in the case of a converted block of flats-
i) on which building work was competed before 1st June 1992 or which is dealt with by regulation 20 of the Building Regulation 1991 and
ii) which would not have been exempt under those Regulations
HMOs: persons not forming a single household
(1) This section sets out when persons are to be regarded as not forming a single household for the purposes of section 254
(2) persons are to be regarded as not forming a single household unless-
a – they are all members of the same family, or
b – their circumstances are circumstances of a description specified for the purposes of this section in regulations made by the appropriate national authority.
(3) For the purpose of subsection 2(a) a person is a member of the same family as another person if-
a – those persons are married to each other or live together a husband and wife (or an equivalent relationship in the case of persons of the same sex);
b – one of them is a relative of the other, or
c -one of them is, or is a relative of, one member of a couple and the other is a relative of the other member of the couple
(4) For the purposes-
a – a “couple” means two persons who are married to each other or otherwise fall within subsection
b – “relative” means parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin;
c – a relationship of a half-blood shall be treated as a relationship of the whole blood; and
d – the stepchild of a person shall be treated a his child
So: what does this actually mean?
A property which is OCCUPIED (this does not mean just the official tenant) by three or more persons who form two or more households or are unrelated is an HMO so long as it meets the criteria above.
The impact of this is now huge, as before it was really only larger numbers occupying a property that were caught by the previous legislation
Highlighted is the word OCCUPIED for good reason, as there are now many cases that have come to light by accident, now being caught by this definition.
For instance, a couple living together renting a flat two bedroomed flat decide to have a third to share, so they advertise and get the third to share.
This action has caused the numbers to change and thus falls into the HMO criteria
Two persons living together – 1 household – Third share – not related – sharing amenities – 1 household
So we now have three persons forming two households – you guessed it – HMO
Many people simple see HMOs as student accommodation and blank themselves off from the real legislation and the power behind it.
This property may be in an area requiring an HMO License or if in another area it is still an HMO, and would be required to come up to the same specifications, but need to be licensed.
HMO Definition – City & County of Swansea have adopted a policy of Additional Licensing in Castle and Uplands Wards, therefore as a landlord, if your property is Occupied as above, you need to apply for a license.
Mandatory Licensing applies in ALL areas of Swansea
To find your local authority’s HMO Definition and Licensing Policy click here
In other areas of the country, you would need to check with your local authority for their Licensing schemes