Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

What is an HMO?

An HMO is a building or part of a building where:

  • three or more tenants are living as more than one household
  • tenants share the kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities

A household can be a single person, a couple or a family (including step-children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, half-relatives and foster children).

Domestic staff such as au pairs, nannies or carers are also included in a household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person they work for.

A common example of an HMO would be where a group of three or more friends live in a house together. They each have their own bedroom and pay rent, but share a kitchen and bathroom. In this instance, each person is counted as a separate household.

Some buildings made up of self-contained flats or non-self-contained units like bedsits (which don't include a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) are also classed as HMOs.

To be classed as an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence, and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants.

Back to top

HMO standards

HMOs can be high-risk and so landlords have additional legal responsibilities to protect tenants from poor living conditions.

All properties must be free from serious hazards to health and safety, as identified by the Housing, Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS). There are regulations in place to ensure that:

  • there are not too many people living in an HMO
  • there are enough amenities (sinks, cookers, baths, toilets, etc) for the tenants, and they are of an acceptable standard
  • there are appropriate fire safety provisions (fire exits, smoke detectors, etc)

Back to top

Compliance Guide for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

The Councils have produced a compliance guide to assist landlords looking to create compliant HMOs in the Adur and Worthing area:

It is expected that this guidance will be followed for new and existing HMOs, but there may be exceptional circumstances at an individual property that demand a lesser or higher standard. If you wish to discuss a particular property then you are invited to contact the Private Sector Housing Team using the contact details at the foot of this page.

Back to top

Which properties require an HMO licence?

An HMO must have a licence from the Council if:

  • five or more persons are living there as more than one household
  • some or all persons share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities
  • at least one person pays rent (or their employer pays it for them)

Not all HMOs require a licence. Some purpose built flats in certain types of building may be exempt from the licensing requirements. Please contact the Private Sector Housing team to check before making an application.

Failure to apply for a licence is a criminal offence and can result in a civil penalty or an unlimited fine. A licence is usually valid for five years.

If you are granted a licence for your HMO there will be certain conditions which you must meet as part of the agreement. These could include producing an annual gas safety certificate, installing and maintaining smoke alarms and supplying all tenants with a copy of the statement of tenancy terms.

Failure to comply with any licence conditions may result in legal proceedings, including fines and loss of licence. If you disagree with any of the conditions, you can appeal to a Residential Property Tribunal, see:

Back to top

Applying for an HMO licence

If you are the landlord or manager of an HMO you can apply for a licence by completing the form below and returning it to us. Please refer to the guidance notes before completing the form.

You will also need to pay a licence fee, which is calculated based on the number of rooms in the property. This fee is non-refundable.

Standard HMO Licence Fee and Re-Licence Fee

Number of bedrooms (or 'units of accommodation' or 'households')

5 bedrooms or fewer:

  • Fee on application: £785
  • Fee on grant of licence: £470

More than 5 bedrooms:

  • An additional 'Fee on application' of £55 is payable for each unit of accommodation over five

Note: The standard HMO licence fee and re-licence fee is charged and paid in two parts:

1. 'Fee on application': The proportion of the licence fee that must accompany the application if it is to be considered valid, ie:

  • 7 bed shared house:
    £785 + (2 x £55) = £895 fee to be paid on application
  • 8 bedsit property with shared bathrooms:
    £785 + (3 x £55) = £950 fee to be paid on application
  • 5 bedsits with shared shower rooms and 6 self-contained flats:
    £785 + (6 x £55) = £1,115 fee to be paid on application

The 'fee on application' is not refundable in any circumstances.

2. 'Fee on grant of licence': The proportion of the licence fee that must be paid within 1 month of the application being approved and is fixed at £470 per licensed property.

Prices from 1st April 2024 to 31st March 2025. Prices are subject to an annual increase in April, prices correct as at 1st April 2024.

When we process an HMO application, we consider the following factors:

  • if the HMO is suitable for occupation by the number of proposed tenants
  • if the facilities are adequate
  • if the proposed licence holder and/or manager is a 'fit and proper person'
  • if the proposed management arrangements are satisfactory

If we are not satisfied you are a suitable person to hold a licence, we may ask that someone else applies to be the licence holder.

Once an application has been approved, the HMO licence will usually be valid for up to five years, and will need to be renewed before the end of that period. We can shorten the licence period if we feel it is necessary.

How to make an application:

First please read the application guidance notes:

Then complete the application form:

Further resources:

Back to top

Public Register of Licensed HMOs

The Councils are required to maintain a public register of all licensed HMOs. If you would like to request a copy of the register then please contact the Private Sector Housing Team using the contact details at the foot of this page.

Back to top

Making a complaint

If you live in an HMO and feel there are any unreasonable hazards, you should contact the local Council. The local Council is responsible for enforcing HMO standards and can make a landlord take appropriate action to correct any defects.

Back to top

Page last updated: 02 April 2024

Back to top