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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)



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What is an HMO?

A property is an HMO if it is let as a main or only home to at least three tenants, who form more than one household and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

A household consists of either a single person or members of the same family who live together, including:

  • people who are married or living together
  • people in same-sex relationships
  • relatives who are living together - including step-children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins and foster children
  • certain live-in domestic staff such as au pairs, nannies, nurses or other carers, gardeners, chauffeurs, servants (if certain conditions are met)

If you are a tenant in shared accommodation, you may live in an HMO. These properties can be an entire house, flat or converted building or any of the following:

  • bedsits
  • shared houses
  • households with a lodger
  • purpose-built HMOs
  • hostels
  • guest houses - if rented out of season
  • bed and breakfasts providing accommodation for homeless people
  • some types of self-contained flats converted from houses

A printable leaflet for landlords and tenants is available here:

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The work of the Private Sector Housing (PSH) Team

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What are the requirements for an HMO?

All HMOs must be free from Category 1 Hazards as assessed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), but there are additional requirements covering adequate fire precautions, means of escape in case of fire and appropriate standards of management and amenities.

The following document is intended for use as a guide to assist landlords on how to comply with the relevant legislation and is used by all Sussex local authorities in deciding the suitability for occupation of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) by a particular maximum number of households or individuals.

It is expected that this guidance will be followed. However, there might be exceptional circumstances at a particular property that demand a lesser or higher standard.

This document was produced by the Sussex Housing Working Group.

This guidance should be assessed alongside the:

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Why are HMOs treated differently to other rented properties?

Fire safety is one of the risk categories which is included in the HHSRS assessment for all homes because national statistics show that fire is a major cause of fatality and injury in residential premises. The risk of fire is assessed regardless of whether a property is in multiple occupation or occupied by a single family.

The greatest risks to occupiers are to be found in multi-occupied properties where there are three or more storeys. This may include houses that are converted into flats, hostels, managed or sheltered accommodation, purpose built multi-storey buildings and flats above shops. The risk rises with increased occupancy, multiple ignition sources (cookers, heaters, fires, smoking), vulnerable occupants, poor construction and lack of fire prevention measures.

Analysis of national fire statistics have concluded:

  • You are six times more likely to die in a fire if you live in any house in multiple occupation (HMO), compared with a single family house.
  • The risk increases to sixteen times more at risk of fatal injury if you live in an HMO which is three or more storeys high.

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Does an HMO need a licence?

An HMO must have a licence if they are:

  • of three or more storeys
  • occupied by five or more persons who form more than one household

Although local authorities can also include other types of HMOs for licensing, there are no plans for discretionary HMO licensing schemes in Adur or Worthing.

You must apply for an HMO licence if one is required, and meet the terms and conditions of the licence.

Guide for landlords and managers:

Guide for tenants:

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Applying for a licence for an HMO

As a landlord, you need to contact us to get an HMO licensing application form. You would usually apply for a licence yourself, but if you use a managing agent they can apply for you.

When you apply, you must tell the following people who have an interest in the HMO:

  • the owner of the HMO
  • the future licence holder
  • mortgagee
  • long leasehold tenants
  • any person who has agreed to be bound by the conditions of the licence

A licence will normally last for five years and will need to be renewed before the end of that period. We can shorten the time period if we feel it is necessary.

You will be charged a non-refundable fee when applying for a licence. You should contact us to find out how much the fee is.

We will look at many things to help us process your licence application, like the suitability of the:

  • HMO for the number of tenants
  • facilities - kitchen, bathroom and toilets
  • landlord - are they fit and proper
  • management arrangements

We must be satisfied that you are a suitable person to hold a licence, otherwise we may ask for someone else to hold it.

To apply please use the form below:

Note: Due to the number of signatures and attachments required on the form below we are currently unable to make this into an online form.

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Licence conditions for an HMO

If you are granted a licence for your HMO, you must meet the conditions set out within that licence. Examples of such conditions would be:

  • producing an annual gas safety certificate
  • making sure all electrical equipment and furniture that you supply is safe
  • installing smoke alarms and making sure they work properly
  • giving tenants a copy of the statement of terms for living in the HMO

We may also set additional conditions, like:

  • standard of facilities
  • state and management of the HMO
  • how you deal with tenant behaviour

All these conditions are to make sure you maintain your HMO to a good standard and manage it well. If you disagree with any conditions that have been set, you can appeal to a Residential Property Tribunal.

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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.

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